UK: The Department for Transport announced on September 29 that incumbent Arriva CrossCountry had been directly awarded a new contract to operate the Cross Country franchise.

The most geographically extensive franchise in the UK covers a 2 400 route-km network of long-distance passenger services serving more than 100 stations. Arriva originally won the franchise in 2007.

The new contract runs for three years from September 2016 to October 2019, and will see Deutsche Bahn-owned Arriva pay the government a premium of £163m.

The new deal includes:

  • 'challenging' targets on punctuality and service reliability;
  • £20m of government funding to modernise CrossCountry's HST fleet, with the fitting of retention toilets and accessibility improvements including powered doors;
  • a new mobile app to buy tickets and check live running times;
  • waiving the £10 change of travel fee for Advance tickets from January 2017;
  • free on-board wi-fi and 4G connection upgrades by April 2018;
  • 39 000 more seats at peak times along the Edinburgh - Leeds - Birmingham - Bristol - Plymouth route by December 2017;
  • shorter journey times from Birmingham to Manchester, with a 'typical cut of 9 min on a weekday and 12 min at weekends';
  • additional stops at Morpeth;
  • customer services open 24/7;
  • £340 000/year of funding for Community Rail Partnerships.

'Today is a key milestone in giving passengers better journeys right across the Cross Country network', said Rail Minister Paul Maynard. 'The franchise, which spans parts of England, Scotland and Wales, serves both commuters and long distance passengers and these benefits from Arriva CrossCountry will deliver extra and smoother journeys for customers using these services.'

'We are delighted to have the opportunity to deliver even more for our customers over the next three years through this new agreement', said Arriva CrossCountry Managing Director Andy Cooper. 'Satisfaction is the theme for the range of investments we will be making, with better, faster journeys with more seats and free wi-fi. We will also be looking to our customers for feedback on how we can deliver them great journeys, and a strong focus on engaging with the many communities and stakeholders our trains serve across the country.'

  • The Department for Transport has awarded the Metroline subsidiary of Singapore-based transport group ComfortDelGro a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire Passport enabling it to bid for future franchises until 2019 without needing to resubmit basic corporate information.