Monday, 9 March 2015

County heralds golden age of rail now approaching

Lancashire County Council has welcomed the announcement that new franchises for rail services across the north will see significant investment, resulting in better connections, faster journeys and more room for passengers on peak-time trains.

Rail North, representing local transport authorities across the region, has worked with the Department for Transport to publish a new invitation to tender for the Northern and Transpennine franchises to start on 1 April 2016. The invitation was published on 27 February 2015 and you can read it here.

The Northern franchise will run for nine years with the option of a one year extension. The TransPennine franchise will run for seven years with the option of a two year extension.

County Councillor John Fillis, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "I warmly welcome the publication today of the Invitation to Tender (ITT) documents for the Northern and Trans Pennine franchises.

"The county council has worked hard in partnership with councils right across the region through Rail North and the DfT to develop an investment-led specification that should deliver significantly improved train services over the period of the new franchises.

"For Lancashire this should mean investment in new and refurbished rolling stock, better train services that take advantage of the investment in the Northern Hub and associated electrification schemes, improved facilities at stations and increased funding for Community Rail Partnerships.

"Officers already have had a positive dialogue with bidders for the two franchises and this will continue to ensure they fully take into account Lancashire's needs."

Key points include:

  • Better trains. This will include at least 120 new-build carriages for use on non-electrified routes and the modernisation of all remaining Northern trains.
  • The Pacer units currently in use on the Northern network will be completely phased out by 2020.
  • Trains will be longer with more seats, particularly on the most crowded routes into the North’s largest cities.
  • More train services will run in the week and on Saturdays.
  • There will be more services to more places on Sundays.
  • A new ‘Northern regional’ service for the Northern franchise – reflecting the needs of passengers travelling longer distances.
  • Free wi-fi will be introduced on all trains by 2020 at the latest.
  • Northern stations will be improved, with at least £30 million of investment across the franchise.
  • There will be improved customer service and challenging targets for customer satisfaction.
  • There will be increased support and funding for Community Rail.
  • The new train operators will need to cooperate with local smart ticketing schemes, simplify fares, and improve the door-to-door journey experience for passengers.
  • Long term investment in the franchises is also encouraged.

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