Ministers announce major rail plans

Nick Clegg in the cab of a train during  a visit to Sheffield train station. Rail passengers in northern England have been promised more seats, more services and new trains under franchise plans announced by the Government.   PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday February 27, 2015. See PA story RAIL North. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire
Nick Clegg in the cab of a train during a visit to Sheffield train station. Rail passengers in northern England have been promised more seats, more services and new trains under franchise plans announced by the Government. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday February 27, 2015. See PA story RAIL North. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire
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Plans to give rail passengers in the North of England more seats, more services and a new fleet of modern trains were unveiled by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin today.

Documents published set out how bidders for the new Northern and TransPennine franchises will be required to provide plans to:

– replace outdated Pacer trains;

– introduce a brand new fleet of modern trains;

– tackle crowding;

– invest in stations;

– accommodate over 19,000 more commuters in Manchester during the morning peak;

– add over 200 new train services every day across both franchises;

– provide over one-third more capacity across both franchises; and

– introduce free Wi-Fi.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “This is an historic moment for the North. Improving rail links in the region has been much anticipated. These old trains have been rattling across rails in the North for over 30 years; a constant source of complaint which have held the region back.

“As part of my Northern Futures initiative I asked the people of the North what they wanted to build a stronger economy and transport was top of the list. So I fought hard to replace pacer trains as soon as possible.

“Today’s plans include a new fleet of trains and improved services that will better connect our great Northern towns and cities. Modernising rail in the North will encourage business, boost tourism and give commuters the journey they deserve; one that is fit for a 21st century metropolis.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “This is great news for passengers across the north, who will finally get a rail service that matches up to the booming economy in this region.”

Full details of what the bidders for the two new franchises are required to deliver are set out in the invitations to tender for the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises. These set out the minimum level of improvements bidders hoping to secure the next franchises will need to include in their detailed proposals.

The Northern franchise operates services throughout the region, and a number of long distance services linking towns and cities such as Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, York, Manchester, Bradford, Preston and Blackpool.

The key improvements the government wants the bidders for the Northern franchise to include are:

– removal of the existing Pacer trains;

– ordering at least 120 new-build carriages;

– modernising every train operating on the Northern franchise;

– doubling the number of services on many routes on the Northern franchise;

– providing more services for commuters, during off-peak times and on Sundays;

– investing at least £30 million to improve stations along the Northern franchise route;

– creating a Customer and Communities Improvement Fund (CCIF) to invest around £13.8 million to deliver benefits for passengers; and

– introducing free Wi-Fi on all Northern trains by 2020 at the latest.

The TransPeninne Express franchise provides longer distance intercity-type services, connecting the cities of Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Hull, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as Manchester Airport. The key improvements the government wants the bidders for the TransPeninne Express franchise to include are:

– introducing extra capacity for passengers through more carriages, increased frequencies or more services;

– proving earlier and later services and more services on Sundays;

– creating a Customer and Communities Improvement Fund (CCIF) to invest around £2.8 million in passenger benefits;

– considering options for new services such as links between Liverpool and Scotland, Crewe to Manchester Airport and extending Newcastle services to Edinburgh;

– working with Network Rail to ensure the electrification of the cross-Pennine Manchester to Leeds route is delivered effectively; and

– introducing free Wi-Fi on all TransPennine Express trains by 2020 at the latest.

Bidders for the Trans Pennine Express franchise have until May 28 to submit their bids. For Northern, the deadline is June 26.