Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Nine More Years of These Terrible Trains

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Nine More Years of These Terrible Trains

Article excerpt

Byline: By Dave Black

Passengers in the North-East were warned last night not to expect new rolling stock or extra trains when the contract for the region's rail services is taken over by a new operator in December.

An agreement allowing UK-Dutch consortium Serco-NedRailways to run the new Northern Rail franchise was finally signed off yesterday by the Strategic Rail Authority and passenger transport chiefs.

Serco-Ned was due to take over the contract from Arriva Trains Northern this week but the handover was delayed for further talks, believed to focus on the amount of Government subsidy for the new franchise.

Yesterday it was revealed that Serco-Ned will take over on December 12 in a deal which involves about pounds 2.4bn in public subsidy for the franchise ( which will run for almost nine years, with the final two years dependent on the operator hitting performance targets.

The franchise covers inter-urban, commuter and rural services in the North-East, North-West and Yorkshire, including the Tyne Valley line in Northumberland.

It sets out targets for Serco-Ned to reduce cancellations and delays by more than 15pc in the first five years, a new penalty system to ensure stations and trains remain up to scratch and a more local performance monitoring system.

Hopes had been expressed that the franchise would result in ageing Pacer trains being replaced, improved weekend and evening train services to rural stations and enhancements such as the re-opening of the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne line to passenger trains.

But last night Serco-Ned made it clear the franchise involves only a commitment to improving the performance, punctuality and reliability of the current operation.

Communications manager Pete Smith said: "The franchise has been let on the basis that we take on the existing rolling stock and operate it for the length of the franchise. …

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