News story

Better journeys for rail customers as new Northern and TransPennine Express franchises confirmed

The Department for Transport has officially signed the Northern and TransPennine Express contracts.

Rail passengers.
  • the Northern franchise has been formally signed with Arriva Rail North Ltd and TransPennine Express franchise with First Trans Pennine Express Ltd
  • the deals will help bring the Northern Powerhouse to life, with 500 brand-new modern carriages, room for 40,000 more passengers, 2,000 extra services a week and a host of improvements

The Department for Transport today (23 December 2015) confirmed it has officially signed the Northern franchise 9-year contract with Arriva Rail North Ltd and the TransPennine Express franchise 7-year contract with First Trans Pennine Express Limited.

The deals provide an unprecedented package of improvements, bringing about the biggest transformation to rail journeys in the north of England and Scotland in decades.

The formal confirmation follows the government’s announcement of the awards and a routine standstill period of at least 10 days.

Together, the operators will oversee a massive £1.2 billion boost to rail services with 500 brand-new modern carriages, room for 40,000 more passengers, 2,000 extra services a week and a host of improvements to deliver a modern, 21st century passenger experience.

The improvements will play a vital role in bringing the Northern Powerhouse to life, rebalancing the economy, creating jobs, opportunity and growth, and providing significantly better journeys across the region.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

We promised passengers a world class rail service that would make the Northern Powerhouse a reality — and I’m delighted that we have found 2 operators that will deliver exactly that. As a one nation government we are committed to closing the economic gap between north and south. These deals, which have been confirmed today, and the joint management of the franchises, will bring the Northern Powerhouse to life.

In 2004, the last time these contracts were awarded, the government did not plan for growth. With the signing of these contracts, Arriva Rail North Limited and First Trans Pennine Express Limited are on track to deliver their exciting, ambitious plans that will make a real difference to customers, and — coupled with our commitment to push ahead with electrifying the vital TransPennine route — will help the region realise its full economic potential, ensuring it has a modern 21st century transport system. This is fantastic news for the north.

The franchises will be jointly managed from Leeds by the Department for Transport and Rail North Limited - which represents 29 local authorities across the north.

Sir Richard Leese, chair of the Association of Rail North Partner Authorities said:

Passengers were clear that they wanted to see a transformation including a lot more newer, better, trains running more regularly with a step change in services provided off-peak and on Sundays. They also wanted improvements to stations and changes to make ticketing easier — and thanks to all the partnership work by Rail North and the Department for Transport, that’s exactly what we are able to announce today.

This is another crucial move towards devolution for the north. Rail North will now play a major role in the management and development of both new franchises, providing an excellent platform for further development and full devolution in the future. Rail North will work very closely with Transport for the North to drive forward economic growth by developing visionary proposals to deliver radically improved connectivity across the north.

Arriva Rail North Limited will run the Northern franchise from April 2016 until March 2025. The operator will oversee the complete removal of the outdated and unpopular Pacers by the end of 2019, and will invest £400 million in 281 brand new air-conditioned carriages — more than double the minimum required in the government’s invitation to tender.

Other improvements on the Northern network include:

  • more than 2,000 extra services each week
  • nearly a 40% increase in capacity — creating space for 31,000 extra passengers travelling into Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle during the morning rush-hour period
  • a new high-quality ‘Northern Connect’ service, meaning new or refurbished trains on longer-distance services, faster journeys and stations staffed daily with catering services and free Wi-Fi
  • improved ticketing, including mobile and print-at-home tickets, and discounted fares for jobseekers

Chris Burchell, Managing Director of Arriva’s UK Trains division, said:

We are proud to be given the opportunity to transform rail travel for passengers in the north of England and to work closely with our partners to connect towns, cities and communities like never before.

We will be investing more than £1 billion to deliver a step-change in quality for customers and dramatically improving services, stations, information and ticketing. Our aim is to be the communities’ local railway and to leave a positive lasting legacy for the north of England.

First Trans Pennine Express Limited will operate services on the TransPennine Express franchise — which runs intercity services across the region and into Scotland — from April 2016 until March 2023. They will bring in 220 new carriages, equivalent to 44 trains and worth more than £400 million, providing fast 125 mph services across the network, as well as:

  • introducing new and additional services for Scotland, including a new, direct Liverpool to Glasgow service from December 2018 with new electric trains
  • doubling the number of Manchester to Newcastle services and running more daily services to Hull from Manchester and Leeds, both from December 2017
  • bringing in 9,000 extra seats into Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and Newcastle during the morning rush-hour period
  • offering discounted advance fares for 16 to 18-year-olds and jobseekers

Tim O’Toole, chief executive of FirstGroup, said:

Our new TransPennine Express franchise will deliver faster and more frequent intercity train services between the north’s major towns and cities and we are excited to help the government achieve its vision for a Northern Powerhouse. Our plans include investment in new and refurbished trains on every part of the network, with millions more seats available, free Wi-Fi and simpler smart and mobile ticketing, allowing us to build on the success we have had over the past 11 years, in which we have more than doubled passenger journeys on the network.

We will work with local authorities, customers and community groups to give them a real stake in the future of their intercity rail travel. The new TransPennine Express will connect the north and keep people moving and communities prospering across the region.

Other improvements across both new franchises include:

  • the provision of free Wi-Fi by December 2019 on all services, all TransPennine Express stations and 36 Northern stations
  • challenging targets to improve customer satisfaction and reduce cancellations and short-formations, which operators will be expected to meet
  • the introduction of automatic delay repay compensation for passengers who buy season and advance-purchase tickets online
  • £55 million of investment in stations to bring them into the 21st century

During the franchises, the government and Network Rail will also forge ahead with electrification of the TransPennine line to deliver faster journey times and significantly more capacity. Network Rail is currently developing a detailed plan for the work which, when finished, will provide a fully electrified route between Liverpool and Newcastle. The work is expected to be completed in 2022.

The deal will also mean significant returns to government and better value for the taxpayer. The government will receive £400 million in premiums from First Trans Pennine Express Limited over the life of the franchise; previously, the franchise was subsidised by the government. The amount of annual subsidy the government pays for the Northern franchise will be reduced by £160 million by the end of the 9-year contract.

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Published 23 December 2015