Monday, March 2, 2015

News: Transforming the north’s railway


It remains to be seen if Rotherham will see any major improvements in its rail connectivity when new franchises begin operating the services across the North in 2016.

The Northern and TransPennine Express franchises provide many rail services across the North of England, including all services into Rotherham. The process of procuring new operators is now underway, with both new franchises due to commence in February 2016.

Publishing tender documents for bidders last week, the Government has made pre-election promises that new franchise holders must replace outdated Pacer trains, introduce a brand new fleet of modern trains, add over 200 new train services every day across both franchises and provide over one-third more capacity across both franchises.

The response from government comes after a period of consultation. Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, explained: "More people than ever are using the north's railways, and the demand for travel by rail into our great northern cities is predicted to grow into the future.

"Passengers, businesses, local communities and their representatives across the north told us that railway services must be revitalised and expanded upon under the new franchises in order to be fit for the twenty-first century and to achieve our vision for the "northern powerhouse.""

The documents set out the minimum level of improvements bidders hoping to secure the next franchises will need to include in their detailed proposals. The shotlisted companies invited to tender are Abellio Northern Ltd, Arriva Rail North Limited, and Govia Northern Limited for the Northern franchise, and First TransPennine Express Limited, Keolis Go-Ahead Limited, Stagecoach TransPennine Express Trains Limited for the TransPennine Express franchise.

A response to the consultation over the future of the franchises was drafted on behalf of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, who lead on the rail work stream for Transport for the North - a new alliance of the north's key authorities and agencies that was set up by the government in October 2014.

As in the long term strategy from Rail North, the need for Rotherham to have improved rail connectivity was raised in the response that stated that despite having a new £8.5m station, the town is not as well served by rail, having only local stopping services to Sheffield, Doncaster and Leeds with infrequent trains to York.

The response put forward ideas around longer distance services and different patterns of local services. It added that, with its redeveloped station, Rotherham should have direct links to principle cities, including Manchester, as well as Manchester Airport.

The response also discussed the potential for a second TransPennine Express service between Doncaster and Manchester which "creates an opportunity to specify that at least one service operates via Rotherham."

There is also a long standing aspiration to improve the frequency of services to Rotherham and provide direct links to additional destinations and other potential new services to Rotherham include a "Northern Express" faster service between Sheffield and Doncaster, and making more use of Northern's low frequency Sheffield – Pontefract – York route.

The tender documents don't make specific reference to improving serives to Rotherham but discusses the fact that, as the exact scope and outputs of the important South TransPennine route infrastructure enhancements are not yet finally settled, the government is not in a position to specify the future service enhancements.

Department for Transport website

Images: Bailey UK


Anonymous,  March 2, 2015 at 12:47 PM  

Please I hope to god that Arriva don't get anywhere near the franchise after the disaster that was 'Arriva Trains Northern'

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