The region’s new railway service provider Arriva has officially taken over the Northern franchise.
Transport chiefs, including minister Andrew Jones, gathered this morning to unveil the new-look North of England train franchise at a ceremony in Manchester.
Arriva will now run railway services in Yorkshire and the provider has promised a series of dramatic improvements in the next few years.
Chris Burchell, managing Director of Arriva’s UK Trains division, said: “Today marks an exciting day for Arriva and the millions of passengers who travel on Northern.
“The journey towards a complete transformation in services for customers in the North starts now. Throughout the term of the franchise we will be injecting multi-million pound investment to deliver a step-change in quality and are excited to now have the opportunity to start delivering on our promises to passengers.
“We are investing in new and refurbished trains, journeys will be improved through refreshed networks and timetables, and our trains will offer more capacity and comfort.”
The number of hourly train services between Knottingley and Pontefract and Harrogate and Leeds will be doubled according to Arriva’s plans.
Mr Burchell said that by 2019, the company plans to deliver new 100mph trains which will operate between Leeds and Sheffield.
He also said there are plans for 30 newly-staffed station to improve customer experience, as well as extended opening hours.
Around 5,000 new members of staff joined the company today as part of the takeover.
Northern is one of the largest transport networks in the UK and provides more than 16,000 weekly train services to a population of 15 million people.
Alex Hynes, managing director of northern, said: “Today is the day we begin to deliver our plans for the exciting next phase of Northern and each and every one of the team is focussed and determined to deliver for customers. Investment is exactly what customers wanted and we are looking forward to achieving major improvements before the end of the decade.”
By 2019, Arriva said it will have increased weekly services to more than 18,000 and aims to replace Pacer trains through a multi-million pound rolling stock investment programme.
The company said Yorkshire will be a “key focus of Arriva’s improvement plan”, and passengers across the county will see improvements to the trains and the network.
The planned 100mph trains will operate on a network of fast Northern Connect services from Sheffield across Yorkshire including Bradford, Doncaster, Hull, Leeds, Lincoln and Nottingham.
Services from Leeds to Sheffield through Nottingham will become 20 per cent faster by 2019, and there will be a 40 per cent increase in peak time capacity for Leeds commuters.
Existing services will also be improved with earlier and later services available on routes including services from Knottingley and Pontefract to Leeds doubled to two-per-hour all day and services from Harrogate to Leeds doubled to four-per=hour all day.
Other plans include new and refurbished trains with free WiFi within three years, more services and faster journeys and longer trains.
Arriva also wants to improve station information and seating or waiting areas and create easier ticket options for commuters.
Sir Richard Leese, chairman of Rail North, said: “Today marks the start of better rail services for the North and of much greater local control over the development of these services.
“Passengers and businesses told us that they wanted less crowded trains, faster and more frequent services that start earlier and finish later and more opportunities to travel on Sundays. The new Northern franchise will exceed these requirements, with the unpopular Pacer trains consigned to the scrapheap by October 2019, 281 brand new carriages, substantial investment in station improvements and a real focus on involving local communities in the railway.”