Three companies have been shortlisted for each of the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises to run the railway network in the North Of England in 2016.
For the Northern franchise, the shortlisted bidders are Abellio Northern Ltd, Arriva Rail North Limited and Govia Northern Limited.
For the TransPennine Express franchise, the shortlisted bidders are First Trans Pennine Express Limited, Keolis Go-Ahead Limited, Stagecoach Trans Pennine Express Trains Limited
The new operator will be expected to work closely with Rail North, which represents the region’s local authorities, to ensure local rail users will have more influence in how their train services are run. Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council and spokesman for Rail North, said:
“The companies on the shortlists demonstrate the interest there is in meeting Rail North’s desire to see the railway acting as an economic driver in the north of England. We look forward to working with the bidders to deliver strong franchises for passengers, which reflect the aims and objectives of our long term rail strategy and the predicted growth in patronage.”
Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “The north is undergoing a real rail renaissance, and we will be asking these companies to come up with innovative and ambitious proposals that will ensure a truly world-class rail network for the region. Building a railway that is fit for the 21st century is a vital part of our long term economic plan, connecting businesses and communities, generating jobs and boosting growth, and we need strong private sector partners to help us achieve this ambition.”
Commuters in the region will see more than £1 billion spent on the rail network in the next five years including the £600 million for the Northern Hub project, and the electrification projects in the north-west and across the Trans-Pennine routes.
The winners of the new franchises will need to demonstrate how they will use these projects to increase capacity in order to tackle crowding and meet future passenger demand; provide faster and more frequent services; and upgrade rolling stock, including proposals to replace Pacer trains on the Northern franchise.
Bidders will also need to improve customer service and passenger satisfaction.
The two existing franchises carried more than 110 million passengers last year, covering inter-urban, commuter and rural routes. The franchises connect passengers travelling into and between the key strategic cities of Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle, and onwards to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
A public consultation into the future of rail services in the north closed yesterday (18 August 2014) and responses will be taken into account as the franchise proposals are developed further ahead of the invitations to tender in December.
Both franchises are due to be awarded by October 2015 but the Labour Party leadership are examining proposals that will require legislation giving state and not-for-profit firms the right to bid for rail franchises as they become vacant.
Northern, the current operator has come under much criticism recently after it announced that Off-peak train fares on some services across West and South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester have been axed.
Off peak tickets would no longer be valid on weekdays between 16.01 and 18.29, on a number of routes from 8 September after the Department for Transport (DfT) asked them to “generate additional revenue” as part of its franchise agreement.