Rail passengers in the north are being asked what improvements they want to see for services across the region as the government considers how the Northern and TransPennine franchises can best make use of the massive investment being rolled out across the network.
Routes across the region will benefit from extensive electrification and upgrades over the next 5 years as part of the government’s £1 billion investment in the northern network, paving the way for up to 700 extra trains every day and 44 million additional passengers a year.
That will mean better journeys, improved connections and more modern trains for passengers and business commuters, travelling between the key strategic cities of Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle and onwards to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
To support this transformation and ensure that both franchises are best placed to meet the demands of passengers, the Department for Transport has today (9 June 2014) launched a consultation into the future of rail services across the region.
Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said:
Rail travel across the north will be transformed over the next 5 years thanks to £1 billion of government investment. That means more seats, improved connections and better journeys for millions of passengers travelling across this region.
To make sure we make the most of this investment and deliver a railway that is truly world class and boosts our economy it is vital that we hear the views of the people who use these services. This is further proof of our commitment to put passengers at the heart of our railways.
Both the TPE and the Northern franchises are set to be awarded by February 2016. The consultation will look at how the new franchises can:
- make best use of the significant capacity improvements planned for the network to tackle crowding and meet future passenger demand
- provide faster and more frequent services to scores of destinations across the region
- improve rolling stock, including proposals to replace Pacer trains across the Northern franchise
- deliver a more efficient network that meets customer needs and drives forward the economy
- improve customer services and passenger satisfaction
In addition to the consultation document, the DfT has issued two prospectuses outlining the details of the franchises to prospective bidders.
The TPE and Northern franchises carried more than 110 million passengers last year across one of the most diverse rail networks in the country. The franchises provide a range of services covering inter-urban, commuter and rural services. Rail travel across the region has seen significant growth in the past decade with demand growing by 66% between 2002 and 2012.
In order to meet this demand Network Rail are carrying a massive upgrade of the network, including the £600 million Northern Hub project, North-West Electrification and Trans-Pennine Electrification project which will make rail journeys faster, greener and more reliable.
The consultation will run until 18 August 2014.