Plans on track for a better rail service

Alex Hyne, Northern Rail
Alex Hyne, Northern Rail
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Train passengers across the North West will be stunned at the improvements they see in 2016.

That’s the bold prediction of Northern Rail managing director Alex Hynes, the boss of the company that has run train services across the North since 2004.

The franchise will be up for renewal in April - and an announcement about the successful company is expected within weeks.

Northern Rail is one of the bidders - but isn’t counting its chickens.

Mr Hynes is adamant that whoever win the franchise, customers across Lancashire and the North West will see massive changes.

Companies chasing the franchise have had to guarantee measures including:

•Phasing out the ageing, disliked Pacer trains by 2019;

•Providing 120 new diesel trains;

•Free wi-fi for customers;

•An 200 extra services from Monday to Saturday, starting earlier and finishing later.

“We are on the cusp of major change,” said Mr Hynes. “It’s going to be incredible really.

“There will be a fundamental change in the service we provide. Whoever gets the franchise the transformation is still going to happen.”

Northern was formed in December 2004 when its parent companies won the franchise contract awarded by the UK Government to operate train services in the north of England until April 2016.

It has 5,000 employees providing more than 2,500 services every day and serves a network of 15 million people.

Northern’s trains call at more than 500 stations and it has 2,300 drivers and conductors, based at 20 train crew depots.

It is expected that whichever bidder is successful, the vast majority of Northern’s railway staff and engineers will transfer over to the new operators.

Recently the Allerton Train Maintenance Depot in Liverpool was officially opened to service Northern’s fleet of Northern Electrics trains after a £23m upgrade

The fleet of 20 electric trains, which are due to be fully deployed by December, will provide 6.7m additional seats a year to routes between Liverpool, Manchester, Wigan, Preston and Warrington.

The delayed electrification of the Preston to Blackpool line is pencilled in for 2017, and Mr Hynes said that would be one of his priorities.

He said that as the electric trains were introduced, Northern’s diesel trains would be retained to create extra capacity.

The biggest beneficiary of the imminent improvements would be the Bolton corridor, where long-suffering commuters have had to endure packed trains and standing room only trains for long stretches between Blackpool and Manchester.

He said: “While we have been doing the tunnels along that stretch we have also been lengthening the platforms.

“We know that overcrowding is an issue. We know the Pacers trains are not fit for purpose.

“There is no doubt that passengers will see more trains, more modern trains and a greater level of service.

“It’s going to be amazing whoever wins the franchise. The service that customers get in the future will be unrecognisable to that provided the past.”