Government unveils £1.2bn railway boost in northern England

Government unveils £1.2bn railway boost in northern England

Rail journeys across the north of England and Scotland will undergo the biggest transformation in decades, thanks to an unprecedented package of improvements being delivered in new franchise deals, the government announced today.

More than 500 brand-new carriages, the removal of the outdated and unpopular Pacer trains, room for 40,000 extra passengers at the busiest times, and more than 2,000 extra services a week will all be delivered.

The government has announced it intends to award the Northern franchise to Arriva Rail North, and the TransPennine Express franchise to First Trans Pennine Express.

Together they will oversee a massive £1.2 billion boost to rail services with brand-new modern trains, more seats, more services and a host of improvements to deliver a modern, 21st century passenger experience - as well as playing a vital role in bringing the Northern Powerhouse to life.

As part of the government’s commitment to ensure local passengers are at the heart of the rail network and devolve power to those that know their economies and customers best, the franchises will be jointly managed from Leeds by the Department for Transport and Rail North Limited - which represents 29 local authorities across the north.

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Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “We promised passengers 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 will run the Northern franchise – which is the second largest in the UK and operates regional and commuter services across the region – from April 2016 until March 2025.

The operator will oversee the complete removal of the outdated and unpopular Pacers by the end of 2019, and will invest £400 million in 281 brand new air-conditioned carriages – more than double the minimum required in the government’s invitation to tender.

Chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne said: “Delivering a world class transport system is at the heart of our plans to build the Northern Powerhouse and today’s announcement helps to take this to the next level.

“At the Spending Review we committed to the biggest rise in transport spending in a generation, with the north benefitting from major new investment, and now these new franchises are set to transform the connectivity, speed and capacity of rail services for families and businesses across the entire region.”