Wednesday, December 9, 2015

News: New rail franchise agreements for the North

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The Government has selected Arriva to operate the Northern Rail franchise and First Group to operate the TransPenine franchise as it claims it will provide a world class rail service that will make the Northern Powerhouse a reality.

Northern Rail, is currently operated by a 50:50 joint venture between Serco Group plc, the international services company, and Abellio, a subsidiary of NS Dutch Railways. From April 2016, it will be operated by Arriva, one of Europe's leading transport operators, until at least 2025.

The winning bid included the introduction of 281 new carriages, the full refurbishment of the remaining fleet and the removal of all Pacer trains within three years. Beginning in December 2017, new timetables will provide 100 new through journey opportunities across Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and other regional hubs.

At the same time as hoping for more investment, the Government was looking to reduce the level of subsidy for the region. Although it has been falling since 2008/09, Northern has the highest subsidy per passenger mile of any franchise managed by Rail Executive. Passenger fare revenue represents only 36% of annual turnover, with direct financial support from the Department for Transport and via local transport bodies amounting to £324m in 2012/13. In comparison, the net subsidy to TransPennine Express amounted to £41m.

On the Northern franchise, Arriva will reduce the amount of annual government subsidy required by around £140m over nine years.

The TransPennine Express franchise, currently operated by FirstGroup and Keolis, will now be solely operated by FirstGroup from next year. Here, 44 new state of the art intercity trains and 220 brand new carriages will be introduced by 2019 providing an additional 13 million seats a year.

The company said that more than £500m will be invested to transform rail services across the North of England and into Scotland. There will be a large increase in the number of carriages compared with today, meaning an 80% rise in capacity at the busiest times of the day.

On TransPennine Express, First will pay premium to the government of around £400m over the life of the new franchise, taking the franchise out of subsidy for the first time.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "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. As a one nation government we are committed to closing the economic gap between north and south. This deal, and the joint management of the franchises, will bring the Northern Powerhouse to life.

"In 2004, the last time these contracts were awarded, the government did not plan for growth – today we've put that right.

"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. This is fantastic news for Yorkshire and the Humber."

The Northern and TransPennine Express franchises provide many rail services across the North of England, including all services into Rotherham. Neither of the new franchise holders seemed to have listened too much to points put forward by the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority during consultation on the need to "improve the frequency of services to Rotherham and provide direct links to additional destinations."

The Northern operated service between Sheffield and Hull, which calls at Rotherham, is set to become part of the Northern Connect network, with at least 13 trains per day each way operated by brand new diesel trains. There will be 15 trains per day on Sundays, up from 11 or 12 currently on the timetable.

Also part of the Northern Connect network, the Lincoln - Sheffield line, which calls at Kiveton Park, a minimum of ten trains per day in each direction will run through to Meadowhall, Barnsley, Wakefield and Leeds.

Subsequent studies have found that the only viable way to improve rail services to Rotherham is to build a brand new £14m station at Parkgate due to the lack of viable options for increasing capacity at Rotherham Central.

Arriva website
First Group website

Images: SYPTE

1 comments:

Anonymous,  December 9, 2015 at 11:41 AM  

No suprise there then, Backwater Rotherham will remain a backwater

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