The Vision suggests that improving services between the key towns and cities in the North will make a significant contribution to economic growth.
For passenger services in the North there are several levels to be addressed:
- Between the five largest cities in the North (Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield). These cities should be linked by fast high quality services providing high frequency connectivity, the highest standards applicable nationally in terms of customer amenity, and at journey times significantly better than those achievable by road (as measured centre-to-centre, in off-peak periods).
- Between the major towns and cities of the North (and between them and the five largest cities). Here the aim is to provide a consistent high standard of express services.
- To London and to other major cities in the UK
- To major international gateways
- To and from smaller towns, rural areas and tourist destinations. Here the service delivered needs to be to a standard appropriate to encourage growth.
Delivery of the strategy will be achieved by a new approach to building an integrated network through eight key principles:
- A harmonised and simplified fares system (including smart ticketing)
- The adoption of a categorised service specification (e.g. high speed, inter-regional express, urban commuter, community railways etc.) each with specific service and rolling stock standards
- Timetables designed to provide good connections between connecting rail services
- Information provided in an accessible and user-friendly manner throughout the journey and across the network, including on connecting modes using the latest, ever-evolving systems and databases
- Stations designed and operated to facilitate transfers for all users between rail services and onward connections by other means: bus, tram, cycle, car and walking routes
- Easier through journeys including better interchange between trains regardless of operator
- Investment in infrastructure and rolling stock designed to create a pleasant and safe travelling and waiting environment that is accessible for all, to avoid overcrowding and to facilitate the design of a connectional timetable
- A progressive introduction of these principles achieved through franchise specifications and input to on-going railway planning processes and through supporting activities of Local Planning Authorities
Some things could be achieved relatively quickly, others will take longer.
In the short term (to 2019) the focus is to maximise the value of committed investment, particularly the Northern Hub and associated electrification schemes, which will bring considerable benefits across the North of England. New franchises in the North will also be important delivery mechanisms.
In the medium term (2019-2024), replacement of rolling stock should be a priority, particularly to capitalise on the vehicle cascade as result of electrification. Opportunities will be pursued for extending the electrified network, for example to key freight locations and ports.
In the long term High Speed Rail will present significant opportunities for the North of England, which will benefit other rail networks by creating the opportunity to change the way the existing network is used. Early investment decisions need to be made to achieve that goal. The North West will be linked to the national high speed rail network when the first phase of HS2 opens in 2026. Yorkshire, the East Midlands and North East will be served by the second phase of HS2 from 2032.
Achieving some components of the strategy may require legislative change, so influencing Government policy development is also important. Network Rail, as the owner and operator of the national rail network is also an important interface. Local Transport Authorities and the Local Transport Plans which they develop play a significant role, particularly in facilitating better connections between rail and other modes.