In December 2015 the Department for Transport announced the awarding of the Northern franchise to Arriva Rail North Limited, and the TransPennine Express franchise to First Trans Pennine Express Limited. Together they oversee £1.2 billion investment in rail services with more new and modernised trains, more seats, more services as well as investment in stations. The franchises are jointly managed from Leeds by the Department for Transport and Rail North Limited (now part of Transport for the North) - which represents 29 local authorities across the north.
Rail North has an ambitious strategic plan.
In the short term the focus is to maximise the value of committed investment, particularly the Northern Hub and associated electrification schemes, which will bring considerable benefits across the North of England. New franchises in the North will also be important delivery mechanisms.
In the medium term (2019-2024), replacement of rolling stock should be a priority, particularly to capitalise on the vehicle cascade as result of electrification. Opportunities will be pursued for extending the electrified network, for example to key freight locations and ports.
In the long term High Speed Rail will present significant opportunities for the North of England, which will benefit other rail networks by creating the opportunity to change the way the existing network is used. Early investment decisions need to be made to achieve that goal. The North West will be linked to the national high speed rail network when the first phase of HS2 opens in 2026. Yorkshire, the East Midlands and North East will be served by the second phase of HS2 from 2032.
Our ‘Rail Devolution Works’ report argues that further rail devolution will enable other regions and areas to also radically transform rail services in a way that supports economic growth at the same time as improving the journey experience for passengers.
The report takes a detailed look at how devolution changed rail services for the better in Merseyside, on London Overground, in Scotland and in Tyne and Wear.
This report sets out the success of regional rail over the past decade and a half despite limited investment when compared to other rail sectors. The report then goes on to develop two hypothetical scenarios to demonstrate how investment in regional rail could deliver even greater benefits, significantly reducing subsidy and growing the benefits delivered to our city region economies.