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‘Don’t merge Northern and Transpennine franchises’ – Steve Scrimshaw

Siemens Rail Systems UK boss Steve Scrimshaw has urged the DfT not to merge the Northern and Transpennine franchises under devolution proposals.

RTM asked the panel at a Dods Transport Dialogue fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference for their views on devolution, and Scrimshaw said: “Look at TransPennine Express as an example: look at their performance in terms of passenger growth, the subsidy they get and the contribution they give back to the Government. If you look at punctuality, passenger scores, etc, they’ve outstripped most passenger operators across the UK, while being separated from the Northern franchise.

“There’s a probability that a devolved franchise governance system will happen in the north – I would certainly recommend that they are kept as separate franchises, as I think if you just look at the performance of them standing on their own, it’s been astronomical and something other TOCs should look at.”

Tim Bentley, mainline managing director at Alstom Transport UK, said the Transpennine route should be made suitable for 125mph services, not just 110mph. That “puts a brake on future railway capacity”, he said, and urged more decisions about rail infrastructure, service and rolling stock to be devolved to the local level “as quickly as we can”.

Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Stephen Joseph, however, told RTM at the fringe event: “We carried out some research on London Overground and Merseyrail, two that have been devolved, and we found they were significantly better than comparable operators – in both cases because they had been neglected parts of larger franchises before devolution. Once devolved, they were given focus by the operators and the authorities, TfL and Merseytravel. We recommended that more devolution was potentially a good idea.”

The Rail North executive, a new body formed of five Passenger Transport Executives (Transport for Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire PTE, Metro in West Yorkshire, Merseytravel and Nexus in the north east) has recently published its Long Term Rail Strategy (LTRS) for the North, which it is consulting on at the moment.

It says: “Development of the strategy has been concurrent with development of proposals for the Northern and Transpennine rail franchises to be devolved to more local specification and management. Should devolution proceed, the intention is that this Long Term Rail Strategy sets the agenda for the specification and management of future passenger rail franchising in the North.”

The LTRS “sets out some quite ambitious goals,” Joseph said, adding that some of the biggest rail growth is happening outside London and that capacity is a particular issue in the north west and West Yorkshire – which the Northern Hub should help address.

The LTRS was put together by Steer Davies Gleave, and Euan Mackay from the consultant team spoke to RTM in the summer about the vision and strategy it presents. Mackay told us: “The key device shaping the LTRS is the creation of an integrated network out of the very separate routes and franchises that exist today.”

That interview and full details can be found here.

A full report from the Dods Transport Dialogue panel debate, which also featured Bob Powell (on board director at Virgin Trains); Claire Porter (head of strategy, Transportation Systems, Thales UK); and chair Sue Percy, CEO of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, can be found in the October/November 2013 edition of RTM. Subscribe here.

To contribute to the consultation on the future of railways in the north (deadline October 21), go to: or email [email protected] 

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]

(Photos copyright Paul Heartfield)

Dont merge BOTTOM PIC


John   04/10/2013 at 14:34

Well, let's see now. TPE runs who's DMU's? Siemens! So he would be bigging up the TPE Results. I have used both TPE and Northern across the Pennines and they are both equally lousy with old "Pacer" and "Sprinter" units being pressed into Leeds - Manchester and Sheffield - Manchester services. They both need new operators.

Mikeyb   04/10/2013 at 20:56

Not so long ago, Siemens pulled out of the bidding for Crossrail, as they were far too busy on orders for other customers. However, it is obvious that they are indeed now looking for further UK train orders because Steve Scrimshaw has been busy lobbying the Conservative Party at their conference, under the guise of praising the performance of TPE - not neccessarily because they run an efficient service with excellent customer relations - but because they operate trains built by his company. Siemens must be desperate!

Steve Casson   04/10/2013 at 21:40

Today I used both TPE and Northern to go to York out ward from Dalton was on a TPE 185 no problems was on time, second part was from Preston to York on a 158 class DMU again on time and no problems (well as for all the Northern trains they dont think about the tall person) any way both units were clean, whilst at York and announcement said that the Liverpool Lime Street to Scarborough was running 54 mins late. Anyway the journey home started ok train left York at the correct time and got into to Preston on time the problem was with the connection to Dalton it was running 30 ,ins late and when we got on the train the conductor told us it was because of people on the line. I have no problem with either companies only the trains form Carlisle to Barrow are always full with it usually being one 153 unit.

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