The new franchise holders have been announced for Northern and Trans Pennine Express, which the Government says represents the biggest transformation in rail journeys in the North East for decades.
More than 500 brand-new carriages, the removal of the outdated and unpopular Pacer trains, room for 40,000 extra passengers at the busiest times and more than 2,000 extra services a week will be delivered across the north.
The Government has announced it intends to award the Northern franchise to Arriva Rail North Limited and the TransPennine Express franchise to First Trans Pennine Express Limited.
Together they will oversee a massive £1.2billion boost to rail services with modern trains, more seats, more services and a host of improvements to ‘deliver a modern, 21st-century passenger experience’.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “We promised passengers in the North East 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.”
Arriva Rail North Limited will run the Northern franchise from April 2016 until March 2025.
The operator will oversee the complete removal of the outdated and unpopular Pacers by the end of 2019, introduce more than 2,000 extra services each week and will invest £400million in 281 brand new air-conditioned carriages to be rolled out across the north – more than double the minimum required in the Government’s Invitation to Tender.
Specific improvements on the Northern network include:
* More services providing space for nearly 30 per cent more passengers into Newcastle during the morning rush hour;
* 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 wifi at each one;
* Extra services to MetroCentre from Sunderland and Morpeth, Newcastle, Hexham and Carlisle, and between Bishop Auckland and Middlesbrough via Darlington; more services between Middlesbrough and Newcastle, also benefiting Stockton; more evening services between Darlington and Middlesbrough; and extra services between Middlesbrough and Whitby;
* Improved ticketing, including mobile and print-at-home tickets, and discounted fares for jobseekers.