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Northern set to enter Network Rail Alliance imminently

Arriva Rail North is set to sign its alliance agreement with Network Rail by the end of the month, RTM has learned.

In an interview with RTM, Alex Hynes, MD of Arriva Rail North, said the agreement would be signed by the end of June, with a more formal announcement in July.

In the Northern ITT, the DfT had made it a requirement that the franchisee would use “reasonable endeavours” to enter into an alliance agreement as soon as reasonably practicable, “but in any event within two years”.

After taking over the franchise in April, Hynes said that this work will be critical for delivering Northern’s business plan, and it is important for the TOC to strengthen and deepen its relationship with Network Rail.

Alex Hynes Managing Director of Northern with a visualisation of a new-look Northern train on the first day of the Northern Franchise

“We are about to sign our alliance agreement with Network Rail, which sets out what we’re going to work on together,” said Hynes. “In order for me to deliver my business plan, Network Rail needs to deliver its – so electrification, Ordsall Chord, upgrades to stabling facilities, all of this.

“At the end of the first month of the franchise we briefed every single manager at Northern on the business plan, and the committed obligations. After my own staff, the first people I then talked to about it was Network Rail. They have to understand my business plan because they are going to support the delivery of it.”

Currently Northern operates across two Network Rail routes – London North Eastern and London North Western. Hynes added that route managers Martin Frobisher and Rob McIntosh understand the importance of this collaborative way of working.

“Early July we’ll do some sort of event around it. We have to sign it by the end of the month,” he added. “Then, in July, we will be meeting the Network Rail team to thrash through all the details in order to succeed and build the relationships.”

Asked about the need for certainty from Network Rail in its timetable, something which has come under criticism even after the Hendy Review, Hynes said Network Rail slippage has already given the TOC issues, “but those are the things we’re thrashing through with them to understand, exactly, what the infrastructure programme is that we can be more certain of – and what does this mean for the operation”.

“The franchise was let on the basis of a series of assumptions about what infrastructure was going to be in place and what wasn’t,” said Hynes. “For example, the franchise had assumed that Bolton would be electrified by December 2016. It is not going to be electrified by December this year; it will be December next year.”

7 Civity

He added that while there will be changes to the programme in the short term, “it doesn’t undermine the mission that by the end of December 2019 this railway will have been transformed” with upgrades and new rolling stock.

“Some things might move slightly to the right,” he added, “but it doesn’t fatally undermine our business plan”.

In March, a new alliance between Network Rail and Great Western Railway (GWR) was signed.

The full interview with Hynes will run in the June/July issue of RTM.

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