LEEDS rail passengers were today promised a fleet of new trains as the Government asked companies to bid for the right to run services across the North.
The Department for Transport said the northern rail franchise holder would be expected to “replace outdated Pacer trains” although it was not immediately clear whether that will mean all the trains dubbed “buses on rails” will be scrapped.
According to the documents inviting companies to bid, the winning bidder of the northern franchise - which covers the bulk of local services in and out of Leeds - will be expected to order “at least 120 new-build carriages” and double the number of services “on many routes”.
The franchise holder will also be expected to invest at least £30 million in stations and introduce free wi-fi on all trains by 2020.
The Government wants the winner of the transpennine franchise - which connects Leeds to Manchester - to introduce extra capacity, earlier and later services, more services on Sundays, free wi-fi and look at introducing connections to Scotland.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “This is an historic moment for the North. Improving rail links in the region has been much anticipated.
“These old trains have been rattling across rails in the North for over 30 years; a constant source of complaint which have held the region back.”
Companies shortlisted to run the new franchises were announced in August 2014. Competing for Northern are Arriva, Govia and Northern, while on the shortlist for TPE are FirstGroup, Keolis/Go Ahead and Stagecoach.
James MacColl, head of campaigns at the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “This is a step toward the modern, high-capacity rail network northern cities need to connect them.
“Much of the exisitng network has be starved of investment, leaving poor facilities, sparse timetables and trains that should have been scrapped a decade ago.”
Companies now have until the end of May to bid for the transpennine franchise and until the end of June for the northern franchise.
Both franchises are due to start in February 2016.
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