Just when we thought it was safe to have a lie-in, a glance at the phone gave the alert. White smoke from the Department for Transport (DfT) revealed Arriva Rail North Ltd in line for the Northern train operating franchise. TransPennine Express will stay with First group.
It’s a year since we put our views to the Arriva team, who impressed us as good listeners. Campaigners had already demanded (against an originally disappointing DfT prospectus) train services comparable with what London and the home countries enjoy. The result was a reasonably expansionist specification (the “ITT”) that it’s clear Arriva now intend to deliver well beyond.
With the worrying proviso that Network Rail has to complete infrastructure enhancements on time, four years from now, our line will be part of the Northern Connect express network, with regular trains to Liverpool, Chester and Manchester Airport as well as Blackpool, Preston and York. Halifax should have 5 trains/hour to Leeds, plus an extra train each daytime hour Bradford-Manchester with journey times reduced by at least 10 per cent. Stations will have a new staff presence. Sunday services will be increased. And there will be significant additional rolling stock both new and refurbished to reduce commuter overcrowding.
Will it be enough? We are disappointed at how little is proposed for the Brighouse Line. We don’t blame Arriva for this but we want more to be done. And we say Sowerby Bridge should be served by all Blackpool-York trains and by the extra Manchesters to be introduced in 2019.
HADRAG’s work continues