22 month direct award for Serco/Abellio joint venture
The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on 27 March that Northern Rail will continue to operate rail services across the north of England until February 2016, when a new long term franchise is planned to be let. The announcement of the Direct Award agreement came just before the current franchise ends, on 1 April.
The five Passenger Transport Executives in the region are co-signatories to the agreement and the DfT says they are continuing to work in partnership with government on the management of services and the specification for the new franchise.
Alex Hynes, Managing Director for Northern Rail, has welcomed the news following the signing of the new Direct Award agreement with shareholders Serco and Abellio.
Northern says it has committed to a range of improvements as part of the agreement which includes improving ticket purchase facilities, extending the availability of advanced tickets, investing in better passenger information by, for example, installing customer information display screens at a further 100 stations, and funding new environmental initiatives.
During the new Direct Award period Northern will continue to work with the Department for Transport on proposals to deliver a fleet of electric trains into the North West, which would see existing diesel stock released to strengthen other services.
Mr Hynes said that ‘this new chapter for Northern’ had been shaped by the current period of economic austerity and the Government’s ambition to reduce the overall cost of rail for UK taxpayers:
‘The next 22 months is about being more efficient and more effective, seeking and delivering new ways of working. That doesn’t mean taking short cuts or risks. It’s about achieving a balance: delivering a safe and improved service in a new way: doing more with less.
‘We’re already delivering enhancements across our network; our services are more punctual and reliable, and the commitment is there to drive further efficiency with our partners. ‘Crucially today’s announcement gives us the opportunity to start consulting with all our stakeholders on the requirements for creating a step change in rail services for the North under the next long term franchise.’
Northern said it has seen 47% growth in passenger numbers since the start of its franchise in 2004, with 94 million journeys made last year, and has improved its Moving Annual Average punctuality performance from 83.7% to 90.9%.
Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said he had insisted on even tougher punctuality, reliability and passenger satisfaction targets.