DfT confirms CrossCountry franchise extension for Arriva

Arriva has promised an extensive programme of improvements on the CrossCountry franchise, as the government formally announced today that it has extended the contract until October 2019.

The extension was expected, and was listed as 'anticipated' on franchise charts issued by the DfT.

As part of the deal, the operator has been set “tough” targets for punctuality and reliability on CrossCountry services, with journey times between Manchester-Birmingham to be cut by nine minutes on weekdays and 12 minutes on weekends.

In addition, the company, which originally won the CrossCountry franchise in 2007, will introduce 39,000 more peak time seats on the Edinburgh to Plymouth route through Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol by December 2017. There will also be new station calls at Morpeth, supporting peak journeys to Scotland, Yorkshire and the Midlands.

The government will receive a premium of £163m from Arriva to operate the extended franchise. The DfT also stated that there would be a ‘£20m government investment in more modern trains’, but no further details were provided. Arriva said this would be used to further modernise CrossCountry’s HST fleet, including powered doors.

Chris Burchell, managing director of Arriva UK Trains said: “Under Arriva, the CrossCountry franchise has made significant progress for customers since 2007 so we are delighted to have the opportunity to operate the franchise for a further three years.

“Over the past nine years our investment programme has focussed on taking the CrossCountry franchise to a new level, enjoying national recognition for our innovation and customer service.

“We have introduced new timetables, extra station calls, refurbished carriages, re-introduced the fleet of High Speed Trains and, using new technology, delivered one of the industry’s most forward-thinking e-ticketing and on-board reservation solutions, helping to ensure customers have faster and easier access to great value fares.”

In addition, Arriva said it will introduce free wi-fi by April 2018, along with 4G download speeds. The company will also invest £340,000 in community rail partnerships on the CrossCountry network per year.

Arriva also promised a number of customer service improvements, including 24/7 customer services, a new mobile app to buy tickets and check live running times, and waiving the £10 ‘change of travel’ fee for advance tickets from January 2017.

Paul Maynard, the rail minister, said: “The franchise, which spans parts of England, Scotland and Wales, serves both commuters and long distance passengers and these benefits from Arriva CrossCountry will deliver extra and smoother journeys for customers using these services.”

Separately, the Department for Transport announced that it has now awarded a ‘Pre-qualification questionnaire passport’ to Metroline, a consortium owned by ComfortDelGro, meaning it is eligible to express an interest in rail franchises until 2019.

(Image c. EDDIE from Flickr)

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Andrew Gwilt   29/09/2016 at 21:39

Well if Arriva did lose the Crosscountry franchise then other bidders could bid to take over the Crosscountry franchise. The bidders could of been: National Express Ltd Abellio First Group Stagecoach Group Govia/Go Ahead MTR Corporation

Huguenot   30/09/2016 at 11:48

It's time CrossCountry added a transformer/pantograph car to its Voyagers, given the huge mileage that they run under the wires on the ECML. Yes I know that Bombadier can no longer supply Voyager carriages but any manufacturer could provide an additional car as long as the electrics and couplers were compatible. That would provide extra seats to the 4- and 5-car units as well.

Sonning Cutting   30/09/2016 at 13:00

The future is bi-modes; Hitachi or Stadler?

David Faircloth   30/09/2016 at 14:48

Huguenot, why can't Bombardier "no longer supply Voyager carriages"? So far as I am aware, the Brugge plant, where the steel bodyshells for Voyagers were produced, is still open, and also capable of building them; and if they can't be sourced from there, I'm sure there are other companies who would be prepared to supply them (like Qualter Hall, for example). Sourcing transformer/pantograph cars from another supplier could be problematical; it depends upon what rights to use intellectual property the owners (not operators) of the Voyagers have, and it may be that - without risking the infringement of Bombardier's property rights - there isn't any real practical alternative to sourcing extra vehicles from the original supplier. However, this situation would change if Bombardier was to license a third party to use it's intellectual property; moreover, the electric traction equipment fitted to the Voyagers is from Alstom, and its intellectual property rights must also be recognised. In summary, therefore, just buying pantograph/transformer cars from another is fraught with difficulty.

John   30/09/2016 at 17:09

What a blow! The Customer Experience is dire and the Arrive attitude is "take it or leave it" as you have no choice but us!! Owned by Deutche Bahn, the German trains are cheaper, more punctual, cleaner and more efficient - why? because Germans wouldn't put up with the crap service at rip off prices that we are forced to suffer!! DfT Think again - PLEASE!!

Andrew   30/09/2016 at 17:50

The franchise should have gone to another company that would invest in new trains like Anglia and Transpennine.The voyagers are not great for the long distance services and what about replacing the HST'S.

Steve   30/09/2016 at 18:26

Agree with comments about the Voyagers, they are regularly packed and just not big enough for the long journeys. The crews try really hard to provide a good service, but it must be difficult when the train-set does not have capacity. Such a shame as I feel this drives more people into their cars!

Roger Capel   03/10/2016 at 09:34

David F; because they've scrapped the jigs. Yes, another manufacturer could step in IF they could get the drawings, which are all Bombardier copyright & would incur a serious cost, & also justify the capital expenditure of re-jigging. E-Meridian is in the same boat, & with Bedford - Corby wires not so far off some would say a bigger priority.

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