Businesses react as new operators for northern rail service are announced
German firm Arriva takes over the Northern franchise from April 2016 until 2025, while FirstGroup will continue to run TransPennine Express until 2023.
Business organisations in the north west have welcomed news for a ‘world class’ rail system in the north as the Northern franchise winners was announced. German firm Arriva takes over the Northern franchise from April 2016 until 2025. It beat Dutch rival Abellio. FirstGroup will continue to run TransPennine Express until 2023, but without its partner Keolis from April. Improvements to services are set to include over 500 new carriages, room for 40,000 extra passengers at peak times and more than 2,000 additional services a week, the Department for Transport said.
The 30-year-old Pacer trains will also be scrapped.
Damian Waters, CBI north west director, said: “This is a welcome boost to businesses across the North. The Northern franchise is a crucial part of the infrastructure that is needed to underpin our ambition for the delivery of a Northern Powerhouse. Improved trains, more seats and more frequent services are critical to keeping people and businesses moving across the region.”
Ken O’Toole, Manchester Airport’s managing director, said the news was a ‘significant first step in delivering increased benefits to passengers.’ He said: “We welcome the intent to deliver a world class rail system across the North, which will further enhance and develop the Northern Powerhouse proposition.
“Furthermore as the recent Transport for the North interim report emphasised, reducing journey times between the major cities and Manchester Airport is key to realising the full potential of the Northern Powerhouse and connecting the entire North to key global market points.
“We look forward to working with the operating companies, TfN, Network Rail and other parties to deliver that vision together.”
Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Transport Minister and Member of Parliament for Stalybridge and Hyde said: “At last, after delays in the franchising process as a consequence of the previous governments shambolic handling of the West Coast Mainline franchiseagreement in 2012, rail users across the North of England now have some clarity about the future of their rail services.
“Ever since being elected in 2010, I have actively campaigned for better services for our area and across the North of England. Better rolling stock, more frequent services and a more simplified ticketing system are vitally important for our future economic prosperity.”
Director of IPPR North, Ed Cox , said the new franchise for rail services in the north are a vital first step to creating a powerhouse economy.
“The co-commissioning by northern leaders through Rail North and the Department for Transport marks a step change in how the north can shape its destiny,” he said.
“It shows what can be achieved when decisions about the north are made in the north.
“But alongside improvements in services and the passenger offer, the challenge now for the new Transport for the North body is whether it can prise the necessary new funding for infrastructure projects on northern transport out of Whitehall in the March Budget.
“Analysis by northern leaders suggest between £15bn and £65bn of spending is required to transform the north’s transport infrastructure. Projects such as the high-speed ‘Hullapool’ line linking east-to-west are what will be truly transformational and help make the Northern Powerhouse a reality.”
Clive Drinkwater, north west regional director of UK Trade & Investment added: “Today’s announcement is excellent news for businesses across the north west.
“In order for our region to achieve its potential we need to pool our resources, share expertise and work more closely with other businesses in our region, as well as those across the North as a whole.
“Transport links can be a significant obstacle in allowing companies to exchange skills and knowledge with ease – the Northern Rail franchise will go a long way in helping to remove that barrier, allowing SMEs to speak to each other before, with UK Trade & Investment’s help, speaking to the rest of the world.”
Article taken from the Manchester Evening News