UK: The invitations to tender for the next Northern and TransPennine Express passenger franchises were issued by the Department for Transport on February 27. The ITTs set out the minimum requirements which must be included by bidders in their proposals.

Last year Abellio Northern Ltd, Arriva Rail North Ltd and Govia Northern Ltd were shortlisted for the Northern franchise, which covers local and regional services across northern England. Bids are now required to be submitted by June 26, with the aim of the contract being awarded in late 2015 and the franchise starting on April 1 2016. Bids must include proposals for:

  • Withdrawal of the ex-British Rail Pacer diesel multiple-units. In response to DfT concerns that the cost:benefit ratio of replacing these DMUs is low and additional costs of £250m over the life of the franchise are anticipated, a ministerial direction has been issued instructing that the replacement of ‘these unpopular and low-quality vehicles’ be included in the ITT;
  • Ordering a minimum of 120 new-build DMU or battery-electric multiple-unit cars capable of operating ‘under their own power for significant distances’. Options for ‘vehicles other than conventional DMUs’ would be considered;
  • Modernising all rolling stock;
  • Doubling the number of services on ‘many routes’;
  • Providing more commuter, off-peak and Sunday services;
  • Investing at least £30m to improve stations;
  • Creating a Customer & Communities Improvement Fund to invest around £13·8m to deliver benefits for passengers;
  • Free wi-fi on all trains by 2020.

First Trans Pennine Express Ltd, Keolis Go-Ahead Ltd and Stagecoach Trans Pennine Express Trains Ltd are shortlisted for the TPE franchise, which is expected to start in April 2016. Bids to be submitted by May 28 must include proposals for:

  • Introducing extra capacity through more vehicles, increased frequencies or more services;
  • Earlier and later services and more services on Sundays;
  • Creating a Customer & Communities Improvement Fund to invest around £2·8m in passenger benefits;
  • Options for new services ‘such as links between Liverpool and Scotland, Crewe to Manchester Airport and extending Newcastle services to Edinburgh’;
  • Working with Network Rail to ensure the electrification of the cross-Pennine Manchester – Leeds route is delivered effectively;
  • Free wi-fi on all trains by 2020.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that publication of the ITTs was ‘great news for passengers across the north, who will finally get a rail service that matches up to the booming economy in this region.’ While the current Northern franchise let in 2004 ‘included limited plans to invest in services or meet demand’, the new franchise would ‘maintain investment and grow to fit the needs of passengers for years to come.’