York passengers promised ‘world class rail service’ as new operators take over

A First TransPennine Express train to Scarborough at York Station. Photograph © Matt Buck on Flickr
9 Dec 2015 @ 8.47 am
| Business, News, Transport

Two new operators will take over key rail networks in the north of England next year – and passengers have been told to expect a “world class service”.

The government announced on Wednesday (December 9) who had won two key rail franchises.

The Northern franchise has been awarded to to Arriva Rail North Limited. It is currently operated by Northern Rail, owned by Serco-Abellio.

And the TransPennine Express franchise has gone to First Trans Pennine Express Limited. It is run by the FirstGroup along with Keolis.

They will take over in April 2016.

What it means for passengers

Ministers promise that “rail journeys across Yorkshire and the Humber will undergo the biggest transformation in decades”.

They say the new operators will:

oversee a massive £1.2 billion boost to rail services across the north 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.

Specific improvements include more services from Newcastle to York, Leeds and Manchester, longer trains and more frequent services, and free wi-fi for passengers.

We promised passengers across Yorkshire and the Humber a world class rail service that would make the Northern Powerhouse a reality – and I’m delighted that we have found two operators that will deliver exactly that.

– Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin

The TransPennine Express service

The TransPennine Express franchise runs intercity services across the north and into Scotland.

New franchise operator First Trans Pennine Express Limited has promised:

  • 220 new carriages, equivalent to 44 trains, providing fast 125mph services across the network
  • longer, brand new trains on services between Scarborough, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool
  • improved passenger facilities including extra shops and better ticket offices

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.

The Northern franchise

The Northern franchise is the second largest in the UK and operates regional and commuter services across the region.

Some of Arriva’s improvement pledges include…

  • more services from Newcastle to York, Leeds and Manchester
  • longer trains and more frequent services, providing space for more than 14,000 extra passengers – around 46% more capacity – into Leeds and Sheffield during the morning rush hour
  • 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 at each one.
  • 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 will be investing more than £1billion 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.

Devolution on the rails

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:

This is another crucial move towards devolution for the North. Rail North will now play a key 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.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin called it “fantastic news for Yorkshire”. He said:

Arriva Rail North Limited and First Trans Pennine Express Limited went far beyond our requirements with 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.