The Association of Rail North Partner Authorities, the organisation that oversees the North’s two major rail franchises, TransPennine Express and Arriva Rail North (Northern), has welcomed news that the operators have delivered on their first year promises.
Rail North, which manages the franchises in partnership with the Department of Transport, confirmed on Friday 17th March that the train operators have delivered good progress on ‘committed obligations’ – a programme of work that included placing orders for over 500 brand new carriages, a ‘deep clean’ of all Northern trains and significant improvements to TransPennine Express services.
Sir Richard Leese, Chair of the Association of Rail North Partner Authorities, said: “As we approach the first birthday of these two new rail franchises it is clear that the operators are already making significant progress on their improvement programmes. We are still at the start of a massive change programme that will transform rail services in the North, but the early signs are that this is a rail revolution that is gaining momentum.”
Both franchise operators have pledged to replace their old trains with either new or fully refurbished rolling stock to ‘as new’ standard and both will be introducing a range of new passenger benefits including greater carrying capacity, enhanced train security and safety systems – and free wi-fi.
“By the end of 2019 all of the old ‘Pacer’ trains will have gone,” said Sir Richard, “and the passenger travelling experience will be transformed. The franchise improvements are just part of a much bigger rail revolution story in the North which will see major investment in rail infrastructure bringing faster more frequent connections between our major cities and smart ticketing systems making ticketing purchase easier, fairer and more intuitive.”
- The Northern franchise has introduced 55 Travel Safe Officers, began its full refurbishment of existing trains with the two partially refurbished train already in service, expanded off-peak day return tickets and introduced more routes.
- The franchisee has also introduced a 24 hour 7 days a week ‘Customer Experience Centre’ and introduced ‘delay repay’, compensating passengers for late running.
- Ticketing is also improving with new ticket gates on stations and new machines for on-board staff.
- In year two, by March 2018, Northern expects to install more than 600 new and refurbished ticket vending machines and begin a major station improvement programme.
- Passengers can also expect to see Northern staff in new uniforms and from December this year will be benefit from enhanced timetables – with further enhancements due in May 2018.
- TransPennine Express has reduced selected fares by 10 per cent between stations on the Manchester-Leeds via Stalybridge route, introduced 25 new ticket vending machines and extended advanced booking times on its Anglo-Scottish route.
- It has integrated rail and bus discounted season tickets between Leeds and York for students and taken measure to reduce the risks of suicides at stations.
- In year two and beyond TransPennine Express will introduce free wi-fi on most of its train fleet, put in new car parking spaces at Brough, Thornaby and Selby and more than 500 new cycle spaces at stations including Huddersfield, Middlesbrough, Selby, Malton, Northallerton, Scarborough and Thirsk.
- The franchisee will also be completing retail development at Hull Station and enhancing the retail provision at Manchester International Airport’s Station.
When completed the franchise enhancements will offer:
- £1.5bn investment in the North’s railways between TPE and Northern
- New rolling stock (98 new trains for Northern, 44 TPE)
- Extra capacity (more seats) with new and refurbished trains
- Disposal of all Pacer railbuses by the end of 2019
- Improved catering on TPE and a new offer on express ‘Northern Connect’ services
- Better connectivity (new and more services) – additional Sunday and later evening services
- More accessible ticket options and Free Wi-Fi – charging sockets and USB ports