Rail passengers in the north of England will soon benefit from more seats, better services and free wi-fi at stations as part of a new agreement between the government and First TransPennine Express.
The deal means that First TransPennine Express will continue to operate services across the north for another year until April 2016, paving the way for the start of a new franchise. The competition to appoint the next operators for both the TPE and Northern franchises, which will transform travel for passengers across the region, is currently underway.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said:
We have ambitious plans for rail across the north of England, with more than £1 billion being invested in the region’s railways.
We have set out how we will transform rail services across the north over the next few years, but we are determined that passengers shouldn’t have to wait to see much-needed improvements. This agreement with First TransPennine Express will make a real difference to passengers, paving the way for the next franchise to further develop a railway the north of England is proud of.
Under the new directly-awarded franchise, First TransPennine Express will:
- introduce free wi-fi at all major TransPennine stations
- implement ‘smart’ enabled ticket machines and gates at Huddersfield station, allowing the use of West Yorkshire’s smart ‘mcard’
- provide technical modifications to improve the reliability of existing trains
- continue to provide 700 additional seats between York and Liverpool every day implemented in December 2014, along with further increases in capacity from May this year
- invest in new customer information facilities at key stations
- deliver a programme of customer service training for staff accredited by World Host
The deal will ensure continuity of services before the new franchise starts in 2016. Earlier this year, the government agreed a plan with the operator to maintain services, increase capacity and bring in additional trains following a decision by the rolling stock industry to move trains running on the TransPennine route to the Chiltern franchise.
Last month, the government set out the improvements it expects the next operator of the TransPennine Express franchise to deliver, through publication of the invitations to tender.
This includes providing extra capacity through more carriages, increased frequencies or more services, additional Sunday services and introducing free wi-fi on all trains by 2020.
TPE will work closely with Network Rail and other stakeholders in the region to ensure the government’s plans for transformation of the railway in the north of England begin to take effect.
Three operators have been shortlisted to run the next franchise:
- First TransPennine Express Limited
- Keolis Go-Ahead Limited
- Stagecoach TransPennine Express Trains Limited