Rail transformation journey begins as Arriva launches new Northern franchise

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Rail passengers across the North will soon benefit from new trains, an overall 37 per cent increase in peak time capacity and revamped ticketing as Arriva launches the new-look Northern rail franchise today.
Chris Burchell, Managing Director of Arriva Trains with a visualisation of a new-look Northern train on the first day of the Northern Franchise

Rail passengers across the North will soon benefit from new trains, an overall 37 per cent increase in peak time capacity and revamped ticketing as Arriva launches the new-look Northern rail franchise today.

  • Yorkshire to benefit from new trains, more services and improved stations

One of the largest transport networks in the UK, Northern provides more than 16,000 weekly train services to a population of 15 million people. By 2019, Arriva will have increased services to more than 18,000 each week whilst also replacing the unpopular Pacer trains through a multi-million pound rolling stock investment programme.

The unveiling of the new franchise, which has also seen 5,000 employees joining Arriva, was marked at a ceremony held at Manchester Piccadilly station this morning, where Transport Minister Andrew Jones joined Arriva UK Trains managing director Chris Burchell, managing director of Northern Alex Hynes and transport partners from Rail North.

Yorkshire will be a key focus of Arriva’s improvement plan, and passengers across the county will see improvements to the trains and the network. By 2019, brand new 100mph trains will operate on a network of fast Northern Connect services from Sheffield across Yorkshire and beyond, to Bradford, Doncaster, Hull, Leeds, Lincoln and Nottingham. Also from 2019, Northern Connect will also operate services from Leeds and Bradford to Blackpool, Chester, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and York.

Services from Leeds to Sheffield through Nottingham will be 20 per cent faster by 2019. There will also be a 68 per cent increase in peak time capacity for Sheffield commuters and a 40 per cent increase in peak time capacity for commuters in Leeds.

Existing services will be improved with earlier and later services available on many routes, including services from Knottingley and Pontefract to Leeds doubled to two per hour all day and services from Harrogate to Leeds doubled to four per hour all day.

In addition, there will be staff at 30 currently unstaffed stations across Yorkshire, improving customer contact and extending staffing hours.

The start of the franchise marks only the beginning of Arriva’s plans to transform rail travel in the North of England. By injecting a total of £1bn throughout the next nine-years, Arriva’s plans include:

  • New and refurbished trains: Within three years, Arriva will introduce 281 new carriages, fully refurbish the remaining fleet and remove all Pacer trains. All trains will have free WiFi by 2019.
  • More services and faster journeys: A 12 per cent increase in the number of services by 2019 – giving passengers greater choice with over 2,000 more services each week. Beginning in December 2017, new timetables will also provide 100 new through journey opportunities across Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and other regional hubs.
  • More capacity: With more and longer trains, there will be a 37 per cent increase in peak time capacity within the next three years.
  • Improved connections through Northern Connect: Launching in 2019 with new trains, inter-urban Northern Connect services will provide faster city connections through a network of 12 long distance routes. They will provide faster connections to Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield, including new services from Bradford to Manchester Airport and Lincoln to Leeds. Northern Connect services will offer free WiFi, plug sockets, tables, air conditioning and seat reservations.
  • Significant station improvements: Investing in stations to give customers easier access to information and providing new seating and waiting areas. This includes video help points being introduced at 447 stations and customer information screens at more than 160 new locations.
  • Value for money and choice: Creating easier ticketing options, including advanced and off-peak fares – encouraging leisure journeys and reducing peak overcrowding.
  • Northern employees: 45 currently unstaffed stations will be staffed and there will be extended opening hours at 54 locations.

Chris Burchell, Managing Director of Arriva’s UK Trains division, said:

Today marks an exciting day for Arriva and the millions of passengers who travel on Northern. Commuters in Yorkshire will experience a noticeable difference, with brand new 100mph trains operating across the network from Sheffield and Leeds from 2019. In total we will see 30 newly staffed stations that will dramatically improve customer experience and opening hours will be extended.

The journey towards a complete transformation in services for customers in the North starts now. Throughout the term of the franchise we will be injecting multi-million pound investment to deliver a step-change in quality and are excited to now have the opportunity to start delivering on our promises to passengers.

We are investing in new and refurbished trains, journeys will be improved through refreshed networks and timetables, and our trains will offer more capacity and comfort.

Our ambitious plans would not be possible without the 5,000 staff who join the Arriva family today. We value the experience and expertise they bring as we link cities and communities across the North like never before.

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

Alex Hynes, Managing Director of Northern, said:

Today is the day we begin to deliver our plans for the exciting next phase of Northern and each and every one of the team is focussed and determined to deliver for customers. Investment is exactly what customers wanted and we are looking forward to achieving major improvements before the end of the decade.

Sir Richard Leese, Chairman of Rail North, added:

Today marks the start of better rail services for the North and of much greater local control over the development of these services.

Passengers and businesses told us that they wanted less crowded trains, faster and more frequent services that start earlier and finish later and more opportunities to travel on Sundays. The new Northern franchise will exceed these requirements, with the unpopular Pacer trains consigned to the scrapheap by October 2019, 281 brand new carriages, substantial investment in station improvements and a real focus on involving local communities in the railway.

The new franchise tangibly demonstrates the real benefit of devolution of power to the North. Rail North Limited played a key role in specifying tender requirements and evaluating bids leading to the award of the franchise and will now be responsible through the Rail North / DfT Partnership team for the management and development of services from their office in Leeds.

Rail North Limited will continue to work very closely with Transport for the North to drive forward economic growth, by developing visionary proposals to deliver radically improved connectivity across the North.