‘Transformation’ of rail travel in the north

A Northern Rail train.
A Northern Rail train.

Plans to give rail passengers in the north more seats, more services and a new fleet of modern trains were unveiled today as details for two franchises were set out.

Documents published today set out how bidders for the new Northern and TransPennine franchises will be required to provide plans to: replace outdated Pacer trains; introduce a brand new fleet of modern trains; tackle crowding; invest in stations; add over 200 new train services every day across both franchises; provide over one-third more capacity across both franchises; and introduce free wifi.

The North East Combined Authority (NECA) has welcomed the Invitations to Tender document, having worked on behalf of local authorities to secure improvements to services and devolution of decision making in the new franchise specifications.

Coun Nick Forbes, lead member for transport on the NECA and leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “We have secured a commitment to replace the much-maligned Pacer train, improvements to evening and weekend services, and a requirement for substantial investment in the region’s stations.

“Whoever wins the new franchise must also support community rail partnerships and join the roll-out of smart ticketing, which the Combined Authority is already bringing to bus and Metro in the North East.

“Crucially for this region, bidders for the Northern franchise will also be required to show how they will deliver a specific management unit for North-East England, giving local people a say in how services are delivered for the first time.

“I now challenge the shortlisted bidders for both franchises to commit to enhancements beyond the minimum requirements in the specifications, to deliver true transformation to the region’s rail network and progress towards the vision set out in the NECA’s long-term rail strategy.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “This is an historic moment for the north. Improving rail links in the region has been much anticipated. These old trains have been rattling across rails in the north for over 30 years; a constant source of complaint which have held the region back.

“As part of my Northern Futures initiative, I asked the people of the north what they wanted to build a stronger economy and transport was top of the list. So I fought hard to replace Pacer trains as soon as possible.

“Today’s plans include a new fleet of trains and improved services that will better connect our great northern towns and cities. Modernising rail in the north will encourage business, boost tourism and give commuters the journey they deserve; one that is fit for a 21st century metropolis.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin added: “This is great news for passengers across the north, who will finally get a rail service that matches up to the booming economy in this region. That means more seats, more services and a brand new fleet of modern trains. Unlike the last Northern franchise in 2004, which included limited plans to invest in services or meet demand, this deal will maintain investment and grow to fit the needs of passengers for years to come.

“Together with the £1billion investment we are making to improve the region’s railways and our plans to link east and west through HS3, our railways are making the region an economic powerhouse.”

In August, the government announced which companies had been shortlisted in the competition to run the two franchises. Bidders for the Trans Pennine Express franchise have until May 28 to submit their bids. For Northern, the deadline is June 26.

For the Northern franchise, these are Abellio Northern Ltd, Arriva Rail North Limited and Govia Northern Limited. For the TransPennine Express franchise, these are First Trans Pennine Express Limited, Keolis Go-Ahead Limited and Stagecoach Trans Pennine Express Trains Limited.