Northern Direct Award Announcement ….

Posted on March 27th, 2014, by The Chairman

The following was announced this morning. It relates to a “direct award” to Serco/Abellio to continue to run the Northern franchise for the next 22 months from 1 April 2014.

Here’s the official release ….


A new deal for rail services in the north that will see tough new targets for punctuality, reliability and passenger satisfaction has been awarded to Northern Rail Ltd, Rail Minister Stephen Hammond announced today (27 March 2014).

The deal marks the start of the transformation of rail services across the north, and will help support the government’s £600 million of investment in the region.

This will see a significant amount of the network electrified, delivering cleaner, quicker and more reliable journeys for passengers travelling between key strategic cities including Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.

Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said:

Rail travel across the north will be transformed over the next 5 years through huge levels of government investment.

However, I am well aware that there is a need for action now. So I have insisted on even tougher punctuality, reliability and passenger satisfaction targets for Northern Rail.

We will also continue to work closely with the operator to deliver additional electric trains which will strengthen services across the network.

The deal covers one of the most diverse rail networks in the country, with routes that will transport passengers to major events taking place during the life of the agreement, such as the Tour de France grand depart this summer, and the Rugby Union World Cup next year.

It underlines the government’s commitment to delivering the best possible deal for passengers. This includes £38 billion to maintain and expand the railways over the next 5 years, and action to cap fares at inflation for the first time in 10 years.

The Department for Transport and Northern Rail are continuing to work on proposals to deliver a fleet of electric trains for the franchise, which would see existing diesel stock released to strengthen other services during the period of the deal.

The operator will also provide new passenger information screens at a further 100 train stations and will work to make buying tickets more convenient.

The deal has been co-signed by the 5 passenger transport executives serving the north, ensuring that government can continue to work with them to deliver services tailored to needs of passengers in the region.

The new agreement will run until February 2016 when a new long-term franchise will be let.


And here’s what was emailed round to Northern staff from MD, Alex Hynes just after 7am this morning ….

“Dear Colleague,

“I am delighted to say that the Department for Transport (DfT) has just announced that we have agreed the contract to operate services across the north of England for a further 22 months until February 2016. This is really good news for us, following months of negotiation, as we can build on the improvements we’ve made so far to continue to deliver a better service for our customers.

“I’ll be issuing a special brief letter this morning once the DfT has confirmed more of the details of the Direct Award, so please keep an eye out and if you are responsible for your local notice boards make sure the brief is displayed as soon as possible.

“Kind Regards



We hope that we on the Mid Cheshire line get our fair share of the strengthening of services noted above, starting with the 0717, 1604, 1704 and 1804.

Please leave a comment

  1. Jen Says:

    Do we have any idea as to which 100 stations are to get the passenger information screens?

    According to other sources (like Railway Gazette and ITV News) ‘make buying tickets more convenient’ means more TVMs and the introduction of more Advance tickets.

  2. Jen Says:

    Northern have added a couple of graphics to their Twitter account illustrating what they are going to do during the Direct Award:

  3. Peter Says:

    As I was mentioning to the Knutsford Transport Twitter account earlier, in the event that the proposed additional services between Greenbank and Stockport/Manchester go ahead, there will need to be information screens at the stations that would receive said services, especially if stations are missed out on the way. Also, if the Middlewich line opens up, Northwich would definitely need them. If they’re the same model used by Arriva and East Mids, they’ll have built-in speakers for audio announcements too, which would be great. I don’t know what the regulations are for having announcements for trains that do not stop, but these displays could provide those alerts if necessary.

    One thing I would like though is departure boards for Hartford at Greenbank (and perhaps the other way round too). In several publications they’re listed as interchanges, so it makes sense for them to make it easier to know when the next train is at either station. Might have the effect of increasing usage of the line to get to Liverpool too, though it gets a bit muddy when ticket acceptance comes into question.

  4. Edd Says:

    A video featuring Alex Hynes on the extension has been posted on You Tube: The talking point is now what exactly does he mean by stopping the very cheap off-peak tickets from being used in the evening peak?

  5. Peter Says:

    @Edd, probably similar to London. Up here in the North, once 9:30 hits, off-peak for everyone. With London, there are trains in the afternoon (5pm-6pm ish) that are classed as peak time because of how crowded they get. I’d expect more things like that happening with other cities.

  6. Jen Says:

    Re: Peter, there are a couple of issues with introducing evening peak ticket restrictions:
    1. Northern can add evening peak restrictions to the flows that they set the fares for but that means that, for instance, Manchester to Wilmslow travelling with Arriva Trains Wales will be affected yet Manchester to Preston travelling with Northern Rail won’t be as the fare is set by TransPennine Express.
    2. People with flexible plans will be put off travelling at peak time and will try to travel before meaning the trains that are busy with school/college traffic will get even busier and become more overcrowded than the ‘peak’ trains.

    Hopefully when he says ‘very cheap off-peak tickets’ he means the PTE set fares which are very cheap e.g. for Hale to Glossop the off-peak fare is just £4.20 return, while for Knutsford to Delamere the off-peak fare is £8.90 return for a much shorter journey.

  7. Peter Says:

    Ahh. Now you mention it, “very cheap off-peak tickets” does sound like PTE-set fares, rather than across the board.

  8. Jen Says:

    Disappointing news on the DfT website. Northern are to get just two extra electric trains this year and one released DMU will be used for the new Blackburn-Burnley-Manchester service and the other for strengthening on the Bolton corridor:

  9. Jen Says:

    After submitting my previous comment I’ve noticed there’s a lot of confusion regarding the press release. Northern have put on their Twitter feed they’ll get 3 x class 319s in time for the December 14 timetable change and a total of 14 x class 319s by the end of next year. The first bit makes sense to me – they’ll get 3 x 319s but they’ll have 2 x class 319 diagrams. The second bit leaves a discrepancy of 16 carriages between the ’40 extra carriages’ DfT say and the 56 carriages which 14 x 319s will have. It’s been suggested that Northern would lose 8 x 2 car trains but their Twitter feed quickly dismissed that.

  10. Watcherzero Says:

    Like with your 2/3 example, 14 trains 12 diagrams leaving two spare for cover or to recieve maintenence.

  11. Edd Says:

    Does anyone know if any Mid-Cheshire line stations will be included in the 100 stations to get CIS, the 134 to get new TVMs or the stations to get a Wi-Fi trial? The Mid-Cheshire line would seem ideal for the Wi-Fi trial given the services aren’t that frequent and the line isn’t so remote that there would be signal issues.

  12. Jen Says:

    While there are only expected to be 2 DMUs freed up by Northern receiving 319s in December and they have future uses identified, could there still be provision for switching some of the busier Pacer diagrams on the Mid-Cheshire line to Sprinter diagrams? I remember when the Southport to Manchester Airport line got extra carriages it got 4 car 142 diagrams replacing 2 car Sprinter diagrams, with the released Sprinters replacing Pacers on other lines.

  13. Simon Barber Says:

    One use from December of released DMU(s) is in the public domain; to start the much-delayed Burnley-Manchester via Todmorden service. However, that doesn’t free up any stock for use elsewhere. The long story of having insufficient rolling stock continues.

  14. Jen Says:

    A consultation document on the next TPE and Northern franchises has been published:

    Looks like we could see the end of Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes and Liverpool-Norwich as through routes. Nothing seems to be mentioned specifically about the Mid-Cheshire line but they do talk about looking at changing service frequencies to meet current demand.

  15. Watcherzero Says:

    Yeah the ultimate question of the consultation is what is the balance between cutting back on rural stops and getting the best possible rolling stock. Implicit is that Pacers will have to be replaced and there will need to be more rolling stock to cope with increased passenger numbers not just in the future but to reduce the amount of overcrowding below todays level. The main target seems to be reducing staffing costs, continuing and enhancing the communication with line users groups, Northern taking over the TPE services to Blackpool/Barrow/Windermere. Consultation also asks whether a sixth hourly TPE North service should exist, whether there should be a 3rd hourly South TPE service and whether Northern should be required to fill in for reduction in services for Warrington.

    About the only thing I dont like is the suggestion of changing the ratio of Edinburgh-Glasgow TPE from alternating to 2:1 in favour of Edinburgh so that Preston gets an even 2tph to each destination when including Virgin services.

  16. Andrew Macfarlane Says:

    The elephant in the room not addressed by the consultation document is that in 1993 the UK chose an inherently expensive way of operating its railways which no other country has copied. Indeed the French are about to merge their equivalent of Network Rail (RFF) with SNCF (as from 1st January 2015). EU directive 91/440 only requires separate accounting for track and train, not total separation into separate bodies. Costs doubled overnight on 1st April 1994 with the creation of Railtrack. Real cost savings can only come by reverting to a unified industry structure. At least Rail North is looking at alternative forms of procurement for new trains rather than the madness of paying leasing charges for the lifetime of stock when in some cases (like the Pacers) its value should have been written down to zero years ago.

  17. Watcherzero Says:

    Except you know SNCF the ‘better state owned way’ has the same amount of debts as NR and by 2019 will have considerably larger debt than NR.

  18. Watcherzero Says:

    Additionally if its such a good change that benefits the network, staff and state producing a cheaper network with higher staffing levels than modern price cutting capitalisms seperate rail entities, why have French rail staff being striking over the issue for the last 3 days?

  19. Andrew Macfarlane Says:


    There is consensus within the industry that the present UK rail industry structure is dysfunctional. When a Train Leasing Company can simply move much-needed rolling stock (the 9 class 170s) from the North of England to Chiltern Railways without the Government or the Rail Delivery Group (of which the Train Leasing Companies are not members) being able to do anything about it then that is symptomatic of a sub-optimal structure. When 100 organisations replace one the end result is surely bound to be less good. Economies of scale are lost, communication becomes even worse (it was never good under BR) and bureaucracy comes to the fore with ill-informed bodies having disproportionate powers. You end up with what we have today. A situation where any improvements take forever to achieve and cost a fortune. We have the worst of both worlds: excessive bureacratic interference (much more than under BR) but the entrepreneurial flair of the private sector is largely prevented by Government diktat and regulation. Also the present industry structure leads to a “pass the parcel” mindset when it comes to complaints.

  20. Watcherzero Says:

    Except the Government knew about it last November and gave its seal of approval. It has the power to block rolling stock moves, its used it in the past and it chose not to use it in this case.

  21. The Chairman Says:

    Hi! We all know there are many and varied opinions on nationalisation, privatisation and the way it was done.

    The subject of this post is the Northern Direct Award Announcement and in particular in relation to the Mid Cheshire Line.

    Let’s try to avoid drifting off subject too far, please.


  22. Edd Says:

    Northern are to apparently going to introduce Evening Peak restrictions in September. Are there any details available about how these will affect tickets issued for Mid-Cheshire services yet?

  23. Andrew Macfarlane Says:


    We have yet to see the details but I suspect the following might be a likely outcome:

    1. It will only affect Off-Peak Day Returns on journeys from Manchester (not towards) between 1600 and 1800.
    2. Off-Peak Returns (formerly known as Savers) will not be affected.
    3. GM Over 60s and disabled ENCTS passes will not be affected.
    4. GM Rail Ranger, System One Day Savers (e.g bus and train) and Wayfarer will not be affected.

    I hope my prediction proves to be correct!

  24. Edd Says:

    Thanks Andrew.

  25. Andrew Macfarlane Says:

    A TfGM report informs us that the evening peak ticket restrictions will apply from 16.00 to 18.30 but gives no further details.

  26. Simon Barber Says:

    I hope the TFGM report proves to be wrong, or alternatively that there are exceptions to the general rule for lines with an infrequent service, because for our line that would mean a gap between off-peak services of four hours – from the 15.17 to the 19.17 departures from Piccadilly. That’s almost as bad as the Virgin evening peak restrictions from Euston and would probably reduce our passenger numbers overall, which is counter-productive.

  27. Jen Says:

    Shouldn’t Northern have already decided on off-peak restrictions if they are to introduce them in September? I could go on to a ticket selling website now and buy an off-peak day return for travel in October and it’ll tell me that it’s valid on the 17:09 Manchester-Chester service.

    If Northern want to introduce off-peak evening restrictions on Mid-Cheshire line services I think they should apply to direct services from Manchester only as demand is much higher on the Manchester-Stockport-Chester services than it is on the trains which do only Stockport-Chester. Why price people off a service which has spare seats?

  28. Andrew Macfarlane Says:

    So now we know. I was partly correct in my prediction. It seems that GM Over 60s passes and Wayfarers will not be affected and as far as the mid-Cheshire line is concerned it seems that the restrictions will be confined to journeys wholly within the TfGM area. The following has been posted on the Rail UK Web Forum by a rail employee. A shortened version is on the Northern Rail website:

    “Staff Brief came out today, the following changes will happen from 7th September 2014:

    Off-Peak Day tickets for travel wholly within the South Yorkshire area will not be valid from 1601 to 1829 inclusive Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays).

    Off-Peak Day and Duo tickets for travel wholly within the TfGM area, GM Rail Rangers and System One Daysavers (Train and Metrolink, Train and Bus, Train, Bus and Metrolink) will not be valid from 1601 to 1829 inclusive Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays). These restrictions will also appear on routes into the TfGM ticketing area from Alderley Edge, Burscough Bridge, Buxton, New Mills Central and Warrington (Bank Quay and Central).

    GM Evening Rangers and Cheap Evening Returns will be withdrawn.

    Off-Peak Day and Duo tickets for travel wholly within the West Yorkshire area, WY Day Rovers, WY Family Rovers and WY Train Day Rovers will not be valid from 1601 to 1829 inclusive Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays) These restrictions will also appear on routes into West Yorkshire from Skipton and Knaresborough.

    Off-Peak Day and Duo tickets for travel on the Hexham-Newcastle line (but not wholly within the Nexus ticketing area) will not be valid from 1601 to 1759 inclusive Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays)”.

  29. Watcherzero Says:

    So apart from Warrington journeys towards Manchester the Merseyrail City line will escape the peak restrictions?

  30. Andrew Macfarlane Says:

    The Merseyrail City line already has evening peak restrictions old chap. I just looked at the St Helens Central-Liverpool off-peak day return and it is restriction code Y9:

    Restriction : Y9

    train except those timed to
    depart Monday to Friday
    between 0631 and 0929 or
    between 1601 and 1759

  31. Edd Says:

    The updated ticket restrictions are now showing on and other ticket selling sites. I notice if you put in a journey like Altrincham to Bolton then it shows the Off Peak Day Return is valid for a return journey arriving back in Altrincham at 15:46, but if you miss that journey option then you can’t arrive back until 20:45 unless you excess to an Anytime fare.

    Watcherzero: Tickets issued between Merseyside stations and Liverpool already have evening peak restrictions, while tickets between any two stations within Greater Manchester will be affected by the new restrictions.

  32. Simon Barber Says:

    Watcherzero, it seems to mean that stations east of Warrington Central are affected but not west of there, and they apply in both directions too. I tried the National Rail journey planner for a Sankey to Manchester peak return journey on 8th September and off-peak tickets were valid. For Warrington Central, the planner forces an anytime ticket if you want to return in the ‘peak period’ and the same for Manchester to Warrington returns. For stations east of Warrington, the planner seems to be in the process of being updated as it does not have any ticket on offer for the peak hour return trains. Incidentally, outside the TFGM fares area, the offpeak return fares are a lot higher but there is not much difference between peak and offpeak fares (only 60p difference from Padgate, for instance, or only 40p from Newton-le-Willows). There seem to be a lot of anomalies in these announcements (for example, why have the cheap evening returns been abolished when they didn’t offer peak time travel anyway?)

  33. Watcherzero Says:

    Yeah thats what I was refering to, journeys from Warrington to Liverpool escape being categorised as peak (even though its a peak train in Liverpool) while those from Warrington to Manchester are considered peak.

    Ive found several anomalies too, In West Lancashire Parbold is first stop outside Greater Manchester ticketing area but is getting peak restrictions while similar Upholland and Garswood in Merseyside are not getting peak restrictions. Peak ticket changes mean travelling further beyond Wigan on the same train is £3 cheaper than if you got off earlier.

  34. Jen Says:

    In response to Watcherzero there are 2 kinds of evening peak restrictions affecting Greater Manchester and some stations in Cheshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire. They are explained in more detail here:

    In response to Simon Barber I imagine the Evening Returns have been dropped because they started at 18:30, with the new evening peak ending at 18:29. So, for instance, a Stockport to Hale return journey with the outward journey made on the 17:58 Stockport-Chester will, from September, cost £6.10. Had the Evening Returns remained the same outward journey made on the 18:30 departure from Stockport would have costed £1.95. So if the Evening Returns had remained the end of the evening peak would be very much like the situation Virgin created at London Euston at the end of the evening peak by pricing their peak tickets so much higher than the off-peak tickets.

  35. Jen Says:

    TfGM have announced the following stations in Greater Manchester will get CIS: Appley Bridge, Ashburys, Bredbury, Dinting, Godley, Gorton, Hattersley, Ince, Moston, Navigation Road, Strines and Woodsmoor.

    I wonder why Hale hasn’t been included.

  36. Andrew Macfarlane Says:

    Perhaps because the above stations are part of the “Northern 100” to get CIS screens as part of the Direct Award whereas Hale is getting them under the (from memory) RSIS scheme.

  37. Jen Says:

    Ah yes Andrew. A Google of the TfGM RSIS scheme reveals there’s 51 Greater Manchester stations getting CIS as part of the scheme with 37 already having had the CIS fitted. Hale is included in the remaining 14 stations alongside stations including Flixton, Newton for Hyde, Smithy Bridge, Castleton and Broadbottom.

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