Plans to give rail passengers in the north of England more seats, more services and a brand new fleet of modern trains form part of the Invitations to Tender; the minimum requirements of bidders for the new Northern and TransPennine Express franchises.
The documents, available on the Department for Transport's web site (opens in a new window), set out how the previously short-listed bidders will be required to provide plans to:
- replace outdated Pacer trains
- introduce a brand new fleet of modern trains
- tackle crowding
- invest in stations
- accommodate over 19,000 more commuters in Manchester during the morning peak
- add over 200 new train services every day across both franchises
- provide over one-third more capacity across both franchises
- introduce free wi-fi
The publication of the invitations to tender is the first step in the transformation of train travel between the northern cities. It is also a significant step in the creation of a northern powerhouse for the UK economy.
"The new franchises will bring a step-change in the level of service offered to West Yorkshire's passengers, and in the way that services will be managed," said Cllr James Lewis, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority's Transport Committee and a Director of Rail North Ltd.
"By including the North of England's Local Transport Authorities at the heart of the development process, we have been able to specify franchises that will deliver more seats on more trains to more places. And responsibility for managing the franchises will be through a formal partnership between Rail North and DfT, as a step towards full devolution of rail franchising.
"Rail services play an important role in connecting people with employment, which is good for the local economy and helps make the 'Northern Powerhouse' a reality.
"I know passengers will welcome the commitment to withdraw the Pacer fleet by 2020 and the introduction of 120 new-build carriages. It's now up to the bidders for the franchises to show how they will deliver the specification - and, I hope, improve upon it."
A public consultation was launched in June, asking for the views of passengers and stakeholders on how the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises should be improved. A summary of the responses is also available.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “This is great news for passengers across the north, who will finally get a rail service that matches up to the booming economy in this region. That means more seats, more services and a brand new fleet of modern trains. Unlike the last Northern franchise in 2004, which included limited plans to invest in services or meet demand, this deal will maintain investment and grow to fit the needs of passengers for years to come.
“Together with the £1 billion investment we are making to improve the region’s railways and our plans to link east and west through HS3, our railways are making the region an economic powerhouse.”
“We know from the consultation exercise last summer that passengers want to see a step-change in the quality of train vehicles, stations, more trains on Sundays and at off-peak times, and longer trains at busy peak times to ease overcrowding,” said Sir Richard Leese, Chair of Rail North. “And thanks to the hard work put in by Rail North, that’s exactly what they’re going to get.
“But this is only the starting point; the invitations to tender specify the minimum required from the new franchisees, and Rail North will continue to push for greater enhancements in future years which will help deliver regional economic growth by helping people get to jobs faster, in comfort and affordably.”