Look North!: Northern and TransPennine franchise awards

18 December 2015


Transport Focus puts a lot of effort, on behalf of passengers, into the franchise replacement process. The processes represent a key opportunity to secure improvements for passengers.

The recent Northern and TransPennine franchise awards look like very good news. Over 500 new carriages will translate, among other things, into more services, longer trains and many more journey opportunities. Just looking at Liverpool and its surrounding region this will mean: new direct services to Scotland, improved connections between the Northern cites, more commuter and airport services and a final goodbye to Pacer trains.

What appears significant is the fact these franchises are based on investment underpinned by increases in passenger numbers and revenue – going for growth. Pulling in investment through the franchises looks.

Transport Focus is heavily involved. We:

  • carry out or pull together research to help the Department for Transport (and other contract specifiers) frame the basics that bidders pitch against
  • talk to all the bidders trying to get them to build in further improvements
  • advise the Department for Transport on the quality aspects of the bids
  • build the National Rail Passenger Survey is into the contracts allowing a direct say for passengers in how the franchise is performing
  • Customer Reports – another of our ‘asks’ compel successful bidders to set out how they are doing against their promises

This position is the result of years of work. When we carried out research in 2013 on passengers and franchising we argued the passenger voice was not being given sufficient weight. We rolled this into our ongoing Passenger Power! campaign.

We are making progress – but there is more to do. We still think more needs to be done in telling passengers that their service is being re-let and giving them an opportunity to have their say. However, franchises are becoming more passenger focused.  You can only really tell if a franchise is successful when it is finished but getting the inputs more passenger focused must help.

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