Joint consultation for new TransPennine and Northern franchises
The Department for Transport has issued a joint consultation document for the new TransPennine and Northern passenger franchises, which take effect in February 2016. The consultation period runs from 9 June to 18 August.
The DfT is asking for feedback from stakeholders – including members of the travelling public – and is requesting responses to over 30 different questions covering a wide range of issues.
TPE and Northern combined carried over 110 million passengers last year, and they serve an area that makes up more than 25% of the total English population, including five of the six major English conurbations.
Rail demand in the North of England grew 66% between 2002 and 2012.
The two franchises are very different in size and scope: Northern has the highest subsidy franchise managed by the DfT – 53p per every mile as against TPE’s 16p, and operates (around) 2,550 weekday trains, compared to TPE’s 335. It carried more passengers in 2012/3 (89.8 million to 24.9 million).
Total public support for Northern in 2012/13 amounted to £324m, as against just £41m for TPE. Overcrowding is a major problem on some TPE routes and it scores the lowest Passenger Focus ratings in this area. For Northern, fare evasion is a big problem.
A major cause for concern must be the age of the rolling stock: Whereas the average TPE fleet age is less than eight years, Northern’s is over 24 years old and the ‘Pacer’ units are no longer compatible with EU accessibility rules. This is an issue the new franchise will have to address.