News story

Boost to rail services in Scotland as UK government awards next TransPennine Express franchise

Government intends to award Northern franchise to Arriva Rail North Ltd, and TransPennine Express franchise to First Trans Pennine Express Ltd.

Glasgow.
  • the UK government promised passengers in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Motherwell a world class cross-border rail service and today that is being delivered as new contract for the TransPennine Express franchise is awarded
  • the UK government announces intention to award TransPennine Express franchise to First Trans Pennine Express Limited
  • operator will bring in a new, direct Liverpool to Glasgow service with new electric trains, and additional services from Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh, including at weekends
  • new Northern franchise, awarded to Arriva Rail North Limited and serving communities across the north of England, also announced
  • together, these operators will oversee a massive £1.2 billion boost to rail services across the north of England and into Scotland, with 500 brand-new modern carriages, room for 40,000 more passengers, thousands more services and a host of improvements to deliver a modern, 21st century passenger experience

Rail journeys between Scotland and England will undergo a massive transformation, thanks to a significant package of improvements being delivered in a new franchise deal, the UK government announced today (9 December 2015).

The UK government has announced that it intends to award the TransPennine Express franchise to First Trans Pennine Express Limited, in a deal that will deliver brand new, state of the art high-speed trains on cross-border routes, extra services from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Motherwell to the north of England, and free Wi-Fi on trains and at stations.

The deal with First Trans Pennine Express Limited forms part of the biggest transformation in decades to rail services across the north of England and into Scotland. Together with Arriva Rail North Limited – which has today been awarded the contract to run regional and commuter services across the north of England – the 2 operators will oversee a massive £1.2 billion boost to rail services across the north of England and into Scotland, with more seats, more services and a host of improvements to deliver a modern, 21st century passenger experience – helping to rebalance the economy and bring the country closer together.

UK Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

We promised passengers in Scotland a world class cross-border rail service – and I’m delighted that we have found an operator that will deliver exactly that. As a one nation government we are committed to closing the economic gap between north and south, and ensuring that Scotland continues to benefit from being part of a strong United Kingdom.

In 2004, the last time these contracts were awarded, the government did not plan for growth – today we’ve put that right.

First Trans Pennine Express Limited went far beyond our requirements with exciting, ambitious plans that will make a real difference to customers, and help Scotland and the north of England realise its full economic potential by ensuring it has a modern 21st century transport system.

Northern and TransPennine Express franchises investment in stations infographic.

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. The operator will invest more than £400 million in new rolling stock across the franchise, and in Scotland, they will introduce:

  • 31 brand new, state of the art 125 mph trains – equivalent to 155 carriages - running on cross-border services on the East Coast and West Coast Main Lines
  • a new, direct Liverpool to Glasgow service from December 2018, with new electric trains additional services from Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh from December 2017, including stops at Motherwell, plus extra weekend services
  • a new hourly service to Edinburgh from Newcastle, via Morpeth, extending the existing Liverpool to Newcastle service
  • free Wi-Fi on trains and at stations by July 2018, with media servers on trains providing entertainment and information to smartphones and tablets
  • discounted advance fares for 16- to 18-year-olds and jobseekers
Northern and TransPennine Express franchises Wi-Fi infographic.

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.

TransPennine Express franchise jobs, skills and apprenticeships infographic.

First Trans Pennine Express Limited will also be expected to meet challenging targets to improve customer satisfaction and reduce cancellations and short-formations, and to introduce automatic delay repay compensation for passengers who buy season and advance-purchase tickets online. It will also make £10 million of much-needed investment in stations across the franchise to bring them into the 21st century.

Northern and TransPennine Express franchises automatic compensation for delays infographic.

As part of the UK government’s commitment to ensure local passengers are at the heart of the rail network and devolve power to those that know their economies and customers best, 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 of England.

The announcement builds on the UK government last year awarding the East Coast franchise to Virgin Trains East Coast, which is delivering reduced journey times and more trains between London and Edinburgh, upgraded trains and more seats.

TransPennine Express extra seats infographic.

Today’s deal will also mean significant returns to the UK 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.

Following the announcement, and in accordance with usual procurement practice, there will be a standstill period of 10 days before the department will be in a position to enter into, and complete, the formal contractual documentation and make the award to First Trans Pennine Express Limited.

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Published 9 December 2015