North East passengers to benefit from rail ‘devolution deal’

New Rail Franchises infographic

Rail passengers in the North East will feel the benefit from new trains, more frequent services and smart ticket travel as part of a franchise deal between local councils and the Department for Transport announced today.

The deal will also bring greater local powers to hold train companies to account and ensure they deliver services in line with their franchise agreements.

The North East Combined Authority and Tees Valley Unlimited partnership have worked together to secure a better deal for passengers in two new rail franchises serving the North of England.

The new franchise holders, Arriva Rail North Ltd for Northern Rail and First Trans Pennine Express Ltd for TransPennine Express, are between them committed to invest in new trains, with the introduction of more than 500 new carriages meaning the replacement of the notorious ‘Pacer’ fleet and other outmoded carriages by 2020.

They will also be providing more frequent services and new links on lines within the North East and to cities including Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester and Carlisle.

Local authorities have formed a unique partnership across the wider region, Rail North, which has pressed for the improvements for passengers announced by the Department for Transport today in the new franchises.

A new North East Rail Management Unit, the first of its kind in the country, will see Northern’s services in the North East, marketing, development and investment decisions developed in partnership with the North East Combined Authority and Tees Valley Unlimited for the first time, within the wider Rail North structure.

Councillor Bill Dixon, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, said on behalf Tees Valley Unlimited: “This is a positive step forward for the region and shows that, by working together, we can make a real difference.
“A rail network that is fit for purpose and serves the needs of the region is essential for our economy and quality of life.

“We have worked with ministers, civil servants and industry to ensure that the growth in the Tees Valley that can be unlocked by better transport is realised. These changes put us in the driving seat, so to speak, and I am delighted that our combined voices have been heard and real changes will be made.”

Cllr Nick Forbes, lead member for transport on the North East Combined Authority and leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “For too long now commuters in the North have had to put up with the Cinderella service that is the Northern Rail franchise. They have had no option but to use outdated trains running on a timetable that does little to reflect their needs, thanks to decades of underinvestment.

“As a result of the decision to set up Rail North we are now finally at the point where locally elected leaders can ensure passengers see the benefit of the money they put into the service through tickets and public funds.

“Passengers will see the early results of creating this council-led railway group when the unloved Pacer trains are finally consigned to history and the frequency of departures increases.

“The task now is in ensuring the new franchisee is held to account for the commitments made to passengers, and our membership of Rail North, means the region has a powerful voice in making sure those promises are kept.

“It is exciting for the North East Combined Authority to be working with local councils in the Tees Valley, as well as our neighbours across the North, to bring decision making on local rail back to the region for the first time in decades.”

Improvements in the new Northern rail franchise, awarded to Arriva Rail North, include:
• Replacement of the antiquated Pacer train fleet by 2020 at the latest and the introduction of 281 newly-built carriages across the north of England
• Formation of a North East Rail Management Unit devolving more influence on local rail provision to our region than anywhere else in the country
• The new franchisee to join and participate in existing multi-operator and multi-modal smart tickets, including the successful Pop brand already being rolled-out in the North East
• A distinct Northern Regional Passenger Service for longer-distance services by 2020 with air conditioning, tables, power sockets/USB chargers, and luggage space
• Half-hourly services between Newcastle and Carlisle from December 2017 with direct express trains going on to Middlesbrough (A combination of existing and new services will create a half hourly service between Middlesbrough and Newcastle and some of these will be new express trains)
• Hourly Sunday services between Newcastle and Middlesbrough via Sunderland and Hartlepool, calling at all stations
• Hourly services between Bishop Auckland and Darlington Monday to Saturday by December 2019 – and more Sunday services by December 2017
• New Sunday services between Metrocentre and Morpeth from December 2017

Improvements in the new TransPennine rail franchise, retained by First Trans Pennine Express, include:
• New 125mph intercity trains to help reduce journey times between core cities
• An hourly Sunday frequency from Middlesbrough towards Leeds and Manchester by December 2017, double the current service, with the first train of the day an hour earlier
• Extending existing services beyond Newcastle to Edinburgh from December 2019
• Doubling the number of Manchester to Newcastle services from December 2017
• Discounted advance fares for 16- to 18-year-olds and jobseekers

Rail North Limited brings together Local Transport Authorities across the North of England into one cohesive and proactive body, which represents the regional and local economic, transport and strategic objectives for the rail industry.

It has enabled 29 separate Local Authorities from across the North of England to develop their understanding of rail industry processes and to use their local experience and expertise to influence franchising outcomes as never before.

Rail North will have responsibility for franchise management, development and investment by operators including service patterns, multi-modal smart ticketing, performance management, station facilities and the introduction of new train fleets.

It is intended the North East Rail Management Unit, will act within Rail North on behalf of local authorities in the North East part of the Northern franchise, including services in Northumberland and to Carlisle, through Durham and the Tees Valley and to Whitby in North Yorkshire.

Click below to view new rail franchise infographic.