Rail journeys between Scotland and England will undergo a massive transformation, thanks to a significant package of improvements being delivered in a new franchise deal, announced by the government this week.
It has been announced that it intends to award the TransPennine Express franchise to First Trans Pennine Express Limited, in a deal that will deliver brand new, state of the art high-speed trains on cross-border routes, extra services from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Motherwell to the north of England, and free Wi-Fi on trains and at stations.
In a separate award Arriva Rail North Limited has been awarded the contract to run regional and commuter services across the north of England – the 2 operators will oversee a massive £1.2 billion boost to rail services across the north of England and into Scotland, with more seats, more services and a host of improvements to deliver a modern, 21st century passenger experience. The contracts will run from from April 2016 until March 2023.
More than 500 brand-new carriages, the removal of the outdated and unpopular Pacer trains, room for 40,000 extra passengers at the busiest times, and more than 2,000 extra services a week will all be delivered.
First Trans Pennine Express Limited will invest more than £400 million in new rolling stock across the franchise, and in Scotland, they will introduce:
- 31 brand new, state of the art 125 mph trains – equivalent to 155 carriages - running on cross-border services on the East Coast and West Coast Main Lines
- a new, direct Liverpool to Glasgow service from December 2018, with new electric trains additional services from Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh from December 2017, including stops at Motherwell, plus extra weekend services
- a new hourly service to Edinburgh from Newcastle, via Morpeth, extending the existing Liverpool to Newcastle service
- free Wi-Fi on trains and at stations by July 2018, with media servers on trains providing entertainment and information to smartphones and tablets
- discounted advance fares for 16- to 18-year-olds and jobseekers.
The government will receive £400 million in premiums from First Trans Pennine Express Limited over the life of the franchise; previously, the franchise was subsidised by the government. The amount of annual subsidy the government pays for the Northern franchise will be reduced by £140 million by the end of the 9-year contract.
Following the announcement, and in accordance with usual procurement practice, there will be a standstill period of 10 days before the department will be in a position to enter into, and complete, the formal contractual documentation and make the awards.