by Phil Marsh

UK’s second largest franchise awarded to German Railway’s subsidiary, Arriva Rail North Ltd

Published: 13th December 2015

Reduction in subsidy, withdrawal of Pacers and three new stations promised

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced who will be operating the new Northern rail franchise currently operated by a joint venture between Abellio and Serco. The new Northern franchise will be operated by German State Railways subsidiary, Arriva Rail North Limited.

The DfT says that the Northern franchise award with the Transpennine franchise will oversee a massive £1.2 billion boost to rail services with 500 new carriages delivering room for 40,000 more passengers, thousands more services and a host of improvements. These will bring the biggest transformation to rail services in decades the announcement said.

The DfT re-iterated that Pacers will be withdrawn saying that they are outdated and unpopular, which reflects regular travelers’ opinion. Whether these trains will be withdrawn as demand for rail travel grows is another matter.

The franchise awards play heavily on the Northern Powerhouse theme saying that they will play a vital role in bringing the Northern Powerhouse to life providing significantly better journeys across the region. The franchises will be jointly managed from Leeds by the DfT and Rail North Limited which represents 29 local authorities across the north.

They said:

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: We promised passengers a world class rail service that would make the Northern Powerhouse a reality – and I’m delighted that we have found 2 operators that will deliver exactly that. This deal, and the joint management of the franchises, will bring the Northern Powerhouse to life.

In a clear dig at the Labour Government, Mr McLoughlin said that “In 2004, the last time these contracts were awarded, the government did not plan for growth – today we’ve put that right.”

He added that the Arriva Rail North Limited bid 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.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said: Delivering a world class transport system is at the heart of our plans to build the Northern Powerhouse and today’s announcement helps to take this to the next level.

Sir Richard Leese, chair of the Association of Rail North Partner Authorities said: Passengers were clear that they wanted to see a transformation including a lot more newer, better, trains running more regularly with a step change in services provided off-peak and on Sundays. They also wanted improvements to stations and changes to make ticketing easier - and thanks to all the partnership work by Rail North and the Department for Transport, that’s exactly what we are able to announce today.

Another management layer?

It seems that Rail North will be playing an active leading role in the management and development of the new franchises working with Transport for the North developing proposals to deliver radically improved connectivity across the north. This will add another dimension to rail complexity so far as rail operations’ management is concerned.

The Northern franchise is the second largest in the UK operates a mixture of regional and commuter services and the award starts in April 2016 running to March 2025. Pacers will be withdrawn by the end of 2019 and Rolling Stock companies will invest £400 million in 281 brand new air-conditioned carriages – more than double the minimum required in the government’s invitation to tender.

The annual subsidy paid by the government for the Northern franchise will be reduced by £140 million by the end of the 9-year contract.

Sunday services

There will be around 400 additional Sunday services, including new direct journeys from Bradford to Wakefield, Sheffield, Nottingham, Liverpool and Hull; from Leeds to Chester and Bridlington; from Lincoln to Leeds; and from Manchester Airport to Warrington, Bradford and Halifax

The commuting services will be expanded by over a third nearly for 31,000 extra passengers travelling into the north’s major cities, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle in the morning rush-hour. There will be three new stations at Apperley Bridge, Kirkstall Forge and Low Moor opened.

‘Northern Connect’

‘Northern Connect’ is a new offering bringing new or refurbished trains on longer-distance services with faster journeys and stations staffed daily with catering services and free Wi-Fi. In addition to the five major cities, Northern Connect will link Bradford, Halifax, Blackburn, Accrington, Burnley, Lincoln, Worksop and Retford.

Arriva operates more than you think!

Arriva currently operates the following franchises:

Arriva Trains Wales

Chiltern Railways

London Overground Railway

Tyne and Wear Metro

And open access operator Grand Central on the East Coast Main Line

Plus The Royal Train based at Wolverton

And what of Pacers?

Porterbrook Rolling Stock Company has transformed a Pacer to comply with all legislation and the Industry wonders if these trains will really be withdrawn. They could be redeployed to provide extra services very economically to help overcrowding across the UK. Time will tell!

And finally:

Chris Burchell, Managing Director of Arriva’s UK Trains division, said:

We are proud to be given the opportunity to transform rail travel for passengers in the north of England and to work closely with our partners to connect towns, cities and communities like never before.

We will be investing more than £1 billion 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.

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