Today (9 June 2014) I have published a consultation document on the future of the TransPennine Express and Northern rail franchises. I have also published the prospectuses for both the TransPennine Express and Northern franchises. These accompany the pre-qualification documents published on 6 June 2014:
and an Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) notice submitted for publication on 5 June 2014. These steps mark the start of the formal competitions to find new operators to run passenger rail services in the 2 key rail franchises in the north of England.
There have been great improvements in the railways nationally and regionally since privatisation. We have seen record growth in passenger numbers, achieved much higher levels of passenger satisfaction and one of the best safety records in Europe. This growth has been particularly strong in the north of England with both franchises experiencing greater numbers of passengers than predicted when the franchises were last let. We want to continue to build on this and to deliver excellent railway services for passengers across the region; providing value for money for both passengers and taxpayers.
The public consultation invites views from the public and from stakeholders on the improvements to service levels and facilities that passengers may wish to see, in order to provide a railway that supports the growth in passenger numbers we expect to see and delivers the wider economic benefits it is capable of. This government has committed to a major programme of investment in the rail infrastructure in the north of England. The projects currently underway, such as the £600 million ‘Northern Hub’ schemes, will allow substantial increases in capacity, improved journey opportunities and cleaner and more efficient operation through route electrification. We will be seeking to deliver these benefits through the TransPennine Express and Northern franchises, while also securing significant efficiency improvements to ensure the taxpayer benefits, and we welcome views on the best way to achieve this.
We want to ensure that the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises we deliver best serve the needs of the people that will use them. To that end we are working closely with Rail North, a new body bringing together the local transport authorities across the whole of the north of England, in the development of them. This consultation is being carried out jointly with Rail North and aims to capture the views of the wide range of stakeholders in the region.
We are confident that our developing partnership with Rail North will help to bring a stronger local focus to the two franchises. Through this, and the skills, investment and innovation brought by the successful bidders, we can deliver a top class railway for the north of England.