By Phil Marsh

Department for Transport announces a direct award for a three-year Cross-Country franchise

Published: 7th October 2016

Award made with no explanation as to why it was made without a competition

The German Railways subsidiary Arriva has been awarded a three-year direct award contract to continue operating Cross Country services the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced. Arriva originally won the Cross Country franchise in 2007 taking over from Virgin Trains. The franchise is unique in that it does not manage any of the 100+ stations it calls at across its 1,500 route miles.

Since 2007 Cross Country says it has delivered a 35% increase in capacity, introduced at-seat catering on all routes, invested in rolling stock improvements and launched onboard Wifi on its Voyager and HST fleets.

The announcement promised passenger improvements as the company will now run the UK-wide network of trains until October 2019. Amongst the promises are better connections and 39,000 more seats per year (or 107 a day) on the Edinburgh to Plymouth route from late 2017. Journey times between Birmingham and Manchester will also be reduced by around 10 minutes.

Connecting passengers

The one real benefit in the agreement seems to be the provision of free Wi-Fi by April 2018 and hopefully better performance as a result of new targets agreed in the contracts. The Cross-Country network of trains has always suffered poor punctuality for various reasons, not lest the huge distances most trains cover operating between Aberdeen to Penzance, Bournemouth to Manchester and from Stansted to Cardiff. But the last 12 months have seen a marked improvement which is some achievement given the long distances covered.

Many passengers are travelling on leisure and so carry a lot of luggage which means they take longer to join and leave services leading to station dwell-time delays. Some trains will start as morning commuter services, run through England in the middle of the day and also serve the evening rush hour so it is easy to see why delays occur.

The new agreement will also see a £20 million DfT investment in more modern trains, extra services calling at Morpeth and £340,000 annual funding for community rail partnerships across the Cross Country network.

They said:

Rail Minister Paul Maynard said: We are making the biggest investment in the railways since the Victorian era and today is a key milestone in giving passengers better journeys right across the Cross Country network.

The franchise, which spans parts of England, Scotland and Wales, serves both commuters and long distance passengers and these benefits from Arriva Cross Country will deliver extra and smoother journeys for customers using these services.

Arriva Cross Country Managing Director, Andy Cooper, said: We are delighted to have the opportunity to deliver even more for our customers over the next 3 years through this new agreement. Satisfaction is the theme for the range of investments we will be making, with better, faster journeys with more seats and free Wi-Fi.

We will also be looking to our customers for feedback on how we can deliver them great journeys, and a strong focus on engaging with the many communities and stakeholders our trains serve across the country.

Arriva Cross Country will now start work on its new timetable that could introduce thousands of extra seats across the network from December 2017. It will pay the government a premium of £163 million to operate the franchise from September 2016 until October 2019.

Who is Arriva?

Arriva is a wholly owned subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn which in turn is owned by the German Government. It has had to sell shares recently to reduce debt levels and operates hundreds of local and national trains in the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Sweden.

The UK is Arriva’s largest rail market operate seven different rail companies including Grand Central, the open access East Coast Main Line operator. Look out for their branding on the side of trains – Part of Arriva - A DB company.

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