Rail users in Lancashire have been promised a 21st century passenger experience to bring the Northern Powerhouse to life in a £1.2bn investment programme.
The Government yesterday signed new franchises with Arriva Rail North and First Trans-Pennine Express which, it says, will vastly improve the service offered to travellers in the north.
Arriva - which takes over from Northern Rail with a nine-year contract - and FTPE have pledged to provide 500 brand new modern carriages, room for 40,000 more passengers, 2,000 extra services per week and other improvements.
“We promised passengers a world class rail service that would make the Northern Powerhouse a reality,” said Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. “I’m delighted that we have found two operators that will deliver exactly that.
“As a one nation government we are committed to closing the economic gap between north and south. These deals, and the joint management of the franchises, will bring the Northern Powerhouse to life.
“In 2004, the last time these contracts were awarded, the Government did not plan for growth. With the signing of these contracts, Arriva Rail North Limited and First Trans Pennine Express Limited are on track to deliver their exciting, ambitious plans that will make a real difference to customers.
“Coupled with our commitment to push ahead with electrifying the vital TransPennine route, (it) will help the region realise its full economic potential, ensuring it has a modern 21st Century transport system. This is fantastic news for the north.”
The promised upgrade will finally see an end to the controversial Pacer trains which travellers have long complained about on routes throughout Lancashire.
The Government says the deals provide an “unprecedented” package of improvements, bringing about the biggest transformation to rail journeys in the north of England and Scotland in decades.
The franchises will be jointly managed from Leeds by the Department for Transport and Rail North Limited - which represents 29 local authorities across the north.