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Arriva and First Group pledge £800m improvements as new northern franchises launched

The new operators of railway franchises in the north have promised a programme of improvements as they took control today.

A ceremony has been held at Manchester Piccadilly this morning as Arriva took over from Northern and First Group took sole control of the TransPennine Express franchise.

The franchises will be co-managed by the Department for Transport and the devolved Rail North Limited, and involve more than £800m of investment from the new operators, including adding 140 new trains that will provide capacity for 40,000 extra passengers at peak times, and improvements to 400 stations.

Transport minister Andrew Jones MP, who attended the ceremony, said: “Arriva Rail North and First TransPennine Express have ambitious plans to deliver a world class rail service that will make a real difference to customers, bringing faster and more frequent services and connecting up northern cities and towns.

“Our new joint management of the franchises with Rail North, coupled with our commitment to spend a record £13bn on transport in the North by 2020, will bring the Northern Powerhouse to life and help the region to realise its full economic potential.”

Sir Richard Leese, chair of the Association of Rail North Partner Authorities, said that new franchises marks the start of better rail services for the north and of much greater local control over the development of these services.

“Passengers and businesses told us that they wanted less crowded trains, faster and more frequent services that start earlier and finish later, and more opportunities to travel on Sundays,” he said.

“These new franchises tangibly demonstrate the real benefit of devolution of power to the north.”

New Northern rolling stock

Arriva’s changes will include increasing train services from 16,000 each week to 18,000 and peak-time capacity by 37% by 2019, and replacing the Pacer trains with a new model featuring free wi-fi.

As RTM reported in January, Arriva has appointed Spain’s CAF to build 281 new carriages, based on the Civity platform, to replace the unpopular Pacer trains.  Eversholt Rail will finance the £490m deal, which will see the first of the new trains being delivered by October 2018.


The order is made up of 31 x three-car and 12 x four-car EMUs and 25 x two-car and 30 x three-car DMUs, with all vehicles scheduled to enter service by December 2019.

Chris Burchell, managing director of Arriva’s UK Trains division, said: “Today marks an exciting day for Arriva and the millions of passengers who travel on Northern.

“The journey towards a complete transformation in services for customers in the North starts now. Throughout the term of the franchise we will be injecting a multi-million pound investment to deliver a step-change in quality and are excited to now have the opportunity to start delivering on our promises to passengers.”

The new franchise has created 4,000 extra jobs at Arriva.

Alex Hynes, managing director of Northern, said: “Today is the day we begin to deliver our plans for the exciting next phase of Northern and each and every one of the team is focussed and determined to deliver for customers.

“Investment is exactly what customers wanted and we are looking forward to achieving major improvements before the end of the decade.”

TransPennine signs Hitachi deal

TransPennine will also bring their fleet up to InterCity standards by 2019 and yesterday signed a deal with Hitachi for 19 new bi-mode trains.

branded hitachi 2

The 95-carriage order, for the fleet of AT300 inter-city trains, has been financed by Angel Trains and will run at speeds of 125mph on both electric and diesel routes from December 2019.

However, trade unions TSSA and RMT continue to oppose the Northern takeover by Arriva, which is owned by German state railway company Deutsche Bahn, and are calling for a nationalised railway in the north.

Manuel Cortes, leader of trade union TSSA, said: “This is no April Fool's joke. Rail journeys across the north of England really will be run by the German government from today.

“They've promised to expand and improve services for passengers and we will be holding them to those promises.

“But don't be fooled today into thinking Deutsche Bahn are in business in Britain for our benefit when their objective is to make profits out of British commuters so they can subsidise fares at home.”

To view video of the franchise launch, click here.

(Top image: Alex Hynes with a visualisation of the new Northern train, c. Arriva)


Huguenot   01/04/2016 at 14:38

So where will these AT300s for FTPE be built? Italy, like the ones for West of England, or Newton Aycliffe? Also, it is difficult to see where the 125mph capability will be used in the foreseeable future, other than York-Northallerton-Newcastle. Or will they also be used on the WCML on FTPE's Scottish services (they won't tilt, of course)?

Michael Still   01/04/2016 at 23:29

Well done Alex, the future looks good from today plenty of improvements to come like there has been over the last few years. The North has a good railway service now much better than a few years ago. it can only get better now. Best Wishes Michael Still

Andrew Gwilt   02/04/2016 at 02:47

43 Class 331 EMU's and 55 Class 195 DMU's are to be built from next year and are to replace the Class 321, Class 322 and Class 323 EMU's and Class 142 and Class 144 Pacer DMU's with the Pacer trains along with Class 143 to be scrapped.

John Gilbert   03/04/2016 at 01:55

The new Northern DMUs must surely be bi-modes to take advantage of the increasing mileage of wired tracks. This is merely common sense.

Michael Still   04/04/2016 at 19:15

It would be nice if the Pacers going to scrap would be offered to preserved railways to help them run services. ie: Wensleydale, Lakeside, Helston etc:

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