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CMA clears new TransPennine franchise

The Competition Markets Authority (CMA) has cleared the award of the TransPennine Express (TPE) franchise to FirstGroup.

The department, which last week also laid out options for the future of rail franchising in the UK, opened an inquiry into the new TPE franchise in January.

After examining overlaps with other rail services, it determined that the new franchise will not “give rise to a realistic prospect of a substantial lessening of competition” – primarily because of the competition brought forward by Northern Rail on the line between Selby and Hull.

It also did not consider that the franchise award could reduce the amount of bidders for future franchises, or provide an advantage to FirstGroup once the new franchise expires.

It did, however, raise concerns about a “substantial lessening of competition” elsewhere, such as between Huddersfield and Marsden, where combining bus services with the franchise would give FirstGroup a “very high share” of public transport services in the region.

“However, it has exercised its discretion to apply the ‘de minimis’ exception where small markets are affected, and therefore has not referred the franchise award for an in-depth investigation,” the CMA’s statement said.

A FirstGroup spokesperson told RTM: “We’re pleased that the CMA has cleared the award of the TPE rail franchise. The new franchise begins in April, and we look forward to delivering more services, more seats, and new state-of-the-art intercity trains.”

The new TPE franchise, announced in December on the same day as the new Northern Rail franchise, is set to begin on 1 April. However, unlike Northern, it has not yet revealed any details about its future rolling stock.

And despite announcing its new MD in January, FirstGroup has not yet made any further public decisions on a potential staff shake-up.

Under the new contract, the company – which will operate under the name First TransPennine Express Limited – has to deliver 44 new state-of-the-art intercity trains by 2019, increasing the present fleet size by two-thirds. All existing trains must also be fully refurbished.

Network Rail has also announced it will work alongside the DfT and Transport for the North to develop a new electrification plan for the TransPennine line, expected to provide capacity for six fast or semi-fast trains per hour and shed up to 15 minutes off current journey times between Manchester and York by 2022.


Andrew G   28/03/2016 at 22:22

New franchise with new rolling stock including Class 195 DMU and Class 331 EMU trains that are to be built by CAF from next year as the Class 142, Class 143 and Class 144 Pacers DMU trains are to be replaced and to be scrapped and other trains that are to be replaced by these new trains with Northern's Class 321's and Class 322's that could be cascaded to Abellio GA or Abellio Scotrail.

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