New trains and training for the North
The North has been given a £1 billion shopping list to transform rail services. A stark contrast to the previous franchise, which assumed no growth and included limited investment. In fact, passenger numbers rose by 50 per cent.
The Northern and TransPennine Express franchises will introduce 140 brand new trains between them by 2020. Prior to the launch, TPE, now minus the First, announced that it and Angel Trains had ordered the first batch of new trains for that franchise from Hitachi.
The majority of the 19 bi-mode trains will be built at Hitachi’s factory in Newton Aycliffe and will start to arrive on the network from December 2019. The arrival of these new units will see TPE relieved of half its Class 185 fleet by 2020. The half it keeps will undergo a complete overhaul.
Northern has already signed a contract with CAF for 281 new carriages – a combination of electric and diesel units. The last of these trains needs to enter service by the end of 2018 if Northern is to achieve the target of phasing out all of its Pacers within the next four years.
‘Even when a Pacer is clean and on time, and [has] great service on board, it’s still a Pacer. They’ll be gone in 44 months.’
BIG COMMITMENTS TO TRAINING
New trains are just part of the plan for the new franchises. Arriva’s Northern employs more than 5,000 people. The new franchise, which runs until 2025, will go much further than in the past in terms of recruitment and training, making ‘big commitments in terms of training, big commitments in terms of development.
Northern has specified minimum targets for new apprentices, graduates and trainees, has committed to scrapping zero-hour contracts and will make a concerted effort to recruit more people from disadvantaged backgrounds. There are also plans to invest more than £2 million improving staff room facilities.
Contrary to claims made by several of the trade unions, staff numbers will increase during the new franchise, says Northern’s Alex Hynes. In fact, Northern’s staff numbers increased on the very first day of the new franchise.
His opposite number at TPE, Leo Goodwin, echoed this, ‘We’re going to be investing in our team, our colleagues, as well to equip them with the skills and tools that they need to do the job to the best of their ability.’
He added, ‘We need to attract the next generation of railway professionals into our industry, so we’re going to be significantly expanding both our apprenticeship and graduate programmes. We’ve committed to hire 36 new apprentices in the next few years, for example, and that will hopefully attract the talent that our industry’s going to need to continue to grow and thrive.’