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A new era for rail in the North of England

24 March 2016  •  Author(s): Chris Burchell, Managing Director UK Trains, Arriva

On 01 April 2016, Arriva Rail North Ltd. began operating the Northern rail franchise. Ahead of the nine-year contract, Chris Burchell, Arriva’s Managing Director UK Trains, discusses rolling stock improvements, enhanced passenger experience and anticipates an exciting future…

A new era for rail in the North of England

The Northern franchise is the largest rail network in the UK outside of London and from April 1, Arriva takes its first steps to begin its transformational journey to deliver a step-change in quality for customers over the nine-year contract.

Northern covers over 1,500 miles of track, services 528 stations, from Crewe to Carlisle and from Lincoln to Newcastle, and currently provides more than 16,000 train services each week to a population of 15 million people.

Our mission, working closely with our partners at Rail North and Network Rail, is to provide customers with improved services through our team of 5,100 employees who will be at the heart of the most extensive investment in this network for a generation.

“Together, we are determined to take the franchise to the next level and deliver on our promises”

Together, we are determined to take the franchise to the next level and deliver on our promises. The experience and expertise of our people and our partners will be invaluable.

In bringing this huge uplift in rail services to the North and, through our newly appointed Northern management team, we will be drawing on our experience and best practice from across our UK and mainland European operations.

We are excited to get started and our York-based mobilisation team has been working round the clock since January doing essential preparation work to set the building blocks in place for our promised £1 billion investment programme.

Below, I can give a taste of what Northern passengers can expect in the future:

Improved rolling stock

We have committed to removing all Pacer trains by 2019 and are investing over £400 million in new and refurbished trains to transform the face of the franchise. We will introduce 98 new trains, a total of 281 new carriages, to deliver extra capacity and extra comfort. Of these trains, we will introduce 51 new DMUs and 38 new EMUs, and 614 existing carriages will be refurbished to an as-new interior quality.

The new trains will have a top speed of 100mph and each will include free access to WiFi for customers.

We signed a rolling stock contract, one month after the initial announcement of the franchise, and are on track to deliver the first new carriages by early 2019. We have issued demanding specifications for our new trains following a comprehensive procurement exercise.

Enhanced passenger experience

Our plans for passenger experience are just as ambitious as our plans for rolling stock. Of course, the investment in new and better trains will positively influence passenger experience, with more and longer trains delivering an average 37 per cent increase in peak time capacity.

Faster trains will mean quicker journeys across the network; up to 20 per cent quicker in some cases, including the Nottingham to Leeds, Carlisle to Newcastle and Sheffield to Lincoln routes.

And it is not simply journeys that we are looking to improve to benefit our passengers, but the entire experience.

“We will be investing in station facilities to make rail travel simpler and more comfortable”

We will be investing in station facilities to make rail travel simpler and more comfortable, by giving passengers easier access to information and providing new seating and waiting areas. The stations in the network will also see improved retailing, technology-enabled employees, the staffing of 45 currently unstaffed stations, and increased staffing hours at a further 54 locations.

We will also demonstrate our commitment to value for money and choice by creating a host of new ticketing options, including new advanced and off-peak fares which have never before been available.

Northern Connect

These improvements to the current network are a top priority, but in order to fulfil a shared ambition of transforming the passenger experience in the North, we are committed to not only improving the network, but adding to it.

“A new network offering a differentiated regional inter-urban service, with faster connections to towns and cities across the North of England”

We are excited about implementing Northern Connect, a new network offering a differentiated regional inter-urban service, with faster connections to towns and cities across the North of England, serving Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield from 2019. These Northern Connect services will offer free Wi-Fi, plug sockets, tables, air conditioning and seat reservations. 

An exciting future

The Northern Rail franchise is ambitious and exciting, promising many milestones and highlights over the coming years.

As one of Europe’s largest transport providers, with experience in 14 markets, we are confident that by drawing on our expertise, building lasting partnerships, and taking advantage of new and emerging technologies, the North of England will enjoy its biggest transformation in rail travel in decades.

2 responses to “A new era for rail in the North of England”

  1. Jack says:

    Does anyone know when they’ll begin putting the CAF Civity trains into service? To be honest, they almost look like a downgrade from the Class 333’s, but I need to see and ride one in person before I can say for certain. It won’t be long until the Class 333’s are 20 years old. I don’t know why we (Northern England) keep old trains running for so long. Maybe it’s because we’re cheapskates, but the government doesn’t help with all their cuts. It just seems like the north is always 10-20 years behind the south in terms of technology.

  2. John Gilbert says:

    The new order for EMUs and DMUs should be rejigged to make the DMU order for Bi-modes instead. These trains should be able to operate off the wires whenever possible. Merely to order DMUs is unimaginative and unnecessary, and out-of-date! This would not happen in Europe.

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