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Yorkshire on track for major rail investment

Yorkshire on track for major rail investment

Published at 10:35am 9th December 2015. (Updated at 1:26pm 9th December 2015)

Rail passengers across Yorkshire are being promised a "massive boost" to services.

New contracts for the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises have been awarded to Arriva Rail North Limited and First Trans Pennine Express Limited.

The Government says the operators will deliver more than 500 brand-new carriages, room for 40,000 extra passengers, thousands more services and other improvements to deliver a "modern, 21st century passenger experience".

Arriva Rail North Limited will run the Northern franchise from April 2016 until March 2025.

Its commitments include removing the outdated and unpopular Pacer trains by the end of 2019, introducing more than 2,000 extra services each week and investing £400 million in 281 brand-new air-conditioned carriages.

There will also be more services between Harrogate and Leeds, new electric trains serving Skipton and Ilkley, improved ticketing and discounted fares for jobseekers.

Chris Burchell, Managing Director of Arriva's UK Trains division, said: "We are proud to be given the opportunity to transform rail travel for passengers in the North of England and to work closely with our partners to connect towns, cities and communities like never before.

"We will be investing more than £1 billion to deliver a step-change in quality for customers and dramatically improving services, stations, information and ticketing. Our aim is to be the communities' local railway and to leave a positive lasting legacy for the North of England."

First Trans Pennine Express Limited will run the TransPennine Express franchise, which operates intercity services across the region and into Scotland, from April 2016 until March 2023.

Its commitments include 220 new carriages, providing fast services across the network and discounted advance fares for 16 to 18-year-olds and jobseekers.

Tim O'Toole, Chief Executive of FirstGroup, said: "Our new TransPennine Express franchise will deliver faster and more frequent intercity train services between the North's major towns and cities and we are excited to help the Government achieve its vision for a Northern Powerhouse.

"Our plans include investment in new and refurbished trains on every part of the network, with millions more seats available, free Wi-Fi and simpler smart and mobile ticketing, allowing us to build on the success we have had over the past 11 years, in which we have more than doubled passenger journeys on the network.

"We will work with local authorities, customers and community groups to give them a real stake in the future of their intercity rail travel. The new TransPennine Express will connect the North and keep people moving and communities prospering across the region."

Both operators will provide free Wi-Fi - on TransPennine Express services and stations by July 2018, and on all Northern services and 36 stations by December 2019 - with media servers on trains providing entertainment and information to smartphones and tablets.

The operators will also be expected to meet challenging targets to improve customer satisfaction and reduce cancellations and short train formations, and to introduce automatic 'Delay Repay' compensation for passengers who buy season and advance tickets online.

In addition, they will make £55 million of much-needed investment in stations and support the roll-out of Oyster-style smart ticketing on public transport across the North.

During the franchises, the Government and Network Rail will press ahead with electrification of the TransPennine Express route to deliver faster journey times and more capacity.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "We promised passengers across Yorkshire and the Humber a world-class rail service that would make the Northern Powerhouse a reality - and I'm delighted that we have found two operators that will deliver exactly that.

"As a one nation Government, we are committed to closing the economic gap between North and South. This deal, and the joint management of the franchises, will bring the Northern Powerhouse to life.

"In 2004, the last time these contracts were awarded, the Government did not plan for growth - today we've put that right.

"Arriva Rail North Limited and First Trans Pennine Express Limited went far beyond our requirements with exciting, ambitious plans that will make a real difference to customers, and - coupled with our commitment to push ahead with electrifying the vital TransPennine route - will help the region realise its full economic potential, ensuring it has a modern 21st century transport system. This is fantastic news for Yorkshire and the Humber."