By Trevor Baxter
SADDLEWORTH RAIL commuters will benefit from newer trains, greater capacity, extra services, easier smart ticketing and even free Wi-Fi as part of a £1.2 billion investment to provide the north of England and Scotland with “world class rail service.”
That is the promise of Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin after awarding franchises to run the Northern network to Arriva Rail North Ltd and First Trans Pennine Express Limited.
There is a pledge also from the government and Network Rail to complete the controversial on-off electrification of the Manchester-Leeds-York TransPennine route by 2022.
Changes will start to take place from April 2016 when the new contracts – for nine and seven years respectively – come into force.
That will be good news for passengers who ensure Greenfield is one of the most used stations in Greater Manchester.
New figures from the Office of Rail and Road placed the Shaw Hall Bank Road stop in 29th out of Greater Manchester’s 91 stations in the 2014/15 financial year with 314,512 passenger journeys.
News of the franchises, the axing of Northern Rail and the ‘unprecedented package of improvements’ has been welcomed by the Greenfield Rail Action Group (GRAG).
But Mark Ashmore, Chair of GRAG, said they will continue to campaign for the rights of local passengers, to press for improved service frequency during the day as well as lobbying to minimise disruption caused by line electrification.
“GRAG welcomes the franchise commitment of new trains with greater capacity and comfort, improved connectivity, better Sunday services and smart Oyster-style ticketing,” confirmed Ashmore.
“First Group who have won the franchise to operate the bulk of our train services from April 2016 were the best prepared and GRAG looks forward to working with them to ensure that their promises are delivered.
“We also look forward to working with Arriva Trains North who initially will be operating some extra peak services to see how the rail service can be further developed over the franchise.
“But GRAG is initially most concerned about ensuring that when the current stopping service between Huddersfield and Victoria is replaced by a TransPennine Express skip-stop service from Leeds to Piccadilly, supplemented in the peak by Arriva trains, there is enough seating for local passengers.
“We shall also be campaigning to ensure that when the Ordsall Chord linking Piccadilly with Victoria is completed and when the extra Trans-Pennine Express train is introduced the needs of InterCity passengers are not met at the expense of the needs of our local passengers.”
GRAG meet on each month at 7.30pm at the Civic Hall in Uppermill. Their next meeting is on February 9. For more details please contact secretary Royce Franklin on 01457 873248.
Key points of the £1.2bn investment include:
- Removal of Pacer trains by the end of 2019
- 281 new air conditioned carriages
- 2,000 extra services each week
- 40% increase in capacity, creating space for 31,000 extra morning rush-hour passengers
- 220 new carriages
- doubling the number of Manchester to Newcastle services and running more
- daily services to Hull from Manchester and Leeds, both from December 2017
- bringing in 9,000 extra seats into Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and Newcastle during morning rush hour
- provision of free Wi-Fi by December 2019 on all services, all TransPennine
- Express stations and 36 Northern stations
- £55m of investment in stations to bring them into the 21st Century