Vital rail services protected through new deal with Arriva CrossCountry

  • Government signs new contract with Arriva to ensure train services continue across the UK’s most extensive rail network, from Aberdeen to Penzance
  • New contract takes CrossCountry in line with ERMA agreements, and brings stability to CrossCountry services for the future, providing certainty for passengers and staff
  • By building back better on this railway, passengers will benefit from an extra 20,000 seats per week, there will be more operational staff and a greater focus on more environmentally friendly services

Vital long-distance rail services that people the length of Great Britain rely upon will continue to run and support the UK’s recovery from COVID-19, thanks to a new contract signed between the Government and Arriva CrossCountry.  

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris has announced today (Friday, 16 October) that Arriva CrossCountry, which has run the service since 2007, will continue to operate the franchise for three more years until October 2023. This will provide certainty for passengers and staff as the future direction of rail reform takes shape.

As people return to the railway, passengers will benefit from increased capacity, and more train drivers and on-board staff to improve services and performance. This comes alongside new measures to help passengers with disabilities, including the ability to reserve space for assistance dogs and better staff training to meet the high standard, best practice seen across the rail industry.

The contract also has a renewed focus on tackling environmental impacts.  To reduce diesel emissions, Arriva CrossCountry will trial the use of electrical shore supplies when their Turbostar fleet are in depots for cleaning, which will reduce the use of diesel engines.

The Department will also continue to work with the owners of the Voyager trains to trial the use of on-train batteries when they enter and leave stations, so that engines are turned off when they’re at platforms further improving air quality.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“This agreement ensures that vital train services will continue across the UK’s most extensive rail network, as the country continues to fight and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The deal announced today reaffirms our commitment to ending the complicated franchise system, and is focused on the best interests of passengers, delivering better services and helping create a new kind of railway.

“With a real focus on boosting capacity and seizing the opportunity to create more environmentally sustainable services, this new contract will benefit passengers in the long term, improving their experience when travelling on our railways.”

This new contract complements the Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs) announced in September, in place for up to 18 months, where the Government pays train companies a small management fee to keep services running through the pandemic.

The contract will see the Government take on the revenue and cost risk associated with the franchise and pay Arriva a performance-linked fee to run the service. This will incentivise the company to deliver improvements to operational performance, passenger experience and service quality.

Stretching from Aberdeen to Penzance and from Stansted Airport to Cardiff, CrossCountry’s network is the most geographically extensive passenger rail franchise in Britain. Calling at over 100 stations, it connects seven of Britain’s ten largest cities.

Captain Sir Tom Moore presented with first Veterans’ Railcard

Military veterans of every generation will soon benefit from cut-price rail travel, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced today, as he presented Captain Sir Tom Moore with the very first Veteran Railcard.

Aimed at supporting veterans’ post-service, the newly unveiled Railcard will provide up to a third off all peak and off-peak fares, as well as discounted travel for adult companions and children. It forms part of the Government’s commitment to make this country the best place to be a veteran, helping repay the debt we all owe to those who have served.

At his home in Bedfordshire Captain Tom Moore, who served in World War II and won the nation’s hearts with his incredible fundraising efforts, was presented with the very first card.

The card pays tribute to the Royal Navy, RAF and Army, using the colours featured on the Veterans flag. An estimated 830,000 veterans, who are not eligible for existing railcards, will now be able to get up to a third off rail travel from 5 November 2020.

The new card will be on sale at an introductory price of just £21 until 31st March 2021.

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, said:

“We have an eternal debt of honour to those who have served our country, and this railcard is part of marking our gratitude. For veterans looking to re-enter the world of work and connect with friends and family, it will cut the cost of travel to open up new opportunities. Delivering this Manifesto promise will improve lives for veterans and their families across the United Kingdom.

“I am also delighted to present Sir Captain Tom Moore with the very first railcard. Through his service and his inspirational fundraising, he has shown the selflessness and indomitable spirit of all those who have served.”

Captain Sir Tom Moore, Captain Tom Foundation, said:

“This is a wonderful occasion to accept the first Veterans rail card.

“It is a rare opportunity to show thanks and gratitude to Veterans and this rail card is a necessary recognition and investment in Veterans, giving them the ability to re-connect and combat loneliness, something that we promote and support at The Captain Tom Foundation.”

The Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris also visited the Building Heroes centre in Wandsworth, to meet with veterans undergoing a 6-week training course in building and construction.  

Targeted at teaching veterans’ new skills and tackling unemployment by delivering a seamless transition into a career in the construction industry, Mr Heaton Harris discussed how the railcard would support re-entering civilian life after service.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer said: 

“Providing discounted rail travel is a fantastic way to underline the debt of gratitude we owe to those who have served.

“For younger veterans, it will also help boost employment prospects, allowing more flexibility in their travel to work or job interviews.”

Charles Byrne, Director General of The Royal British Legion said:

“Every day our Armed Forces community provide an incredible service in so many ways and it’s right their unique contribution is recognised.

“We welcome the introduction of measures such as the new Veterans Rail Card that will allow veterans and their families to enjoy discounted rail fares.

“At a time when many veterans are facing significant financial hardship, we hope as many as possible will be able to enjoy the benefits this card will bring when travelling by train.”

Help for Heroes CEO, Melanie Waters said:

“We are pleased that the Government will make good on its promise to introduce a railcard for veterans and extend discounted train travel to former service personnel in England.

“The pandemic is having a lasting impact on veterans and their families both financially and socially, and its introduction will come at a welcome time.” 

Rail franchising reaches the terminus as a new railway takes shape

Ministers today ended rail franchising after 24 years as the first step in bringing Britain’s fragmented network back together.

The new system, creating a simpler and more effective structure, will take shape over the coming months. The first stage, today, is moving operators onto transitional contracts to prepare the ground for the new railway.   

From this morning, franchising is replaced with more demanding Emergency Recovery Management Agreements (ERMAs). These address the continuing impact of the pandemic on the railway and delivers on a Government commitment to replace the current franchising system.

These management agreements have tougher performance targets and lower management fees. The new contracts allow us to make an early start on key reforms, including requiring operators to co-ordinate better with each other and driving down the railways’ excessive capital costs. 

Management fees will now be a maximum of 1.5% of the cost base of the franchise before the pandemic began. The ERMAs are a transitional stage to the new system, the biggest change to the railways in a quarter of a century. 

Under current public health guidance, the intention is also for operators to run an almost a full service, to ensure there is space to help passengers travel safely.   

ERMAs pave the way for wider rail industry reform that prioritises the passenger. In 2018 Keith Williams, the chairman of Royal Mail, was asked to review the railways after a chaotic timetable change and the failure of some franchises.

Today’s announcement, which has his full support, is the prelude to a White Paper which will respond to his recommendations. The White Paper will be published when the course of the pandemic becomes clearer.  

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said:   

“The model of privatisation adopted 25 years ago has seen significant rises in passenger numbers, but this pandemic has proven that it is no longer working. 

“Our new deal for rail demands more for passengers. It will simplify people’s journeys, ending the uncertainty and confusion about whether you are using the right ticket or the right train company.   

“It will keep the best elements of the private sector, including competition and investment, that have helped to drive growth – but deliver strategic direction, leadership and accountability.  

“Passengers will have reliable, safe services on a network totally built around them. It is time to get Britain back on track.” 

Until passenger numbers return, significant taxpayer support will still be needed, including under the transitional contracts announced today. But the reforms will enable substantial medium and longer-term savings for taxpayers.    

Keith Williams, chair of the Williams Review, said: 

“These new agreements represent the end of the complicated franchising system, demand more from the expertise and skills of the private sector, and ensure passengers return to a more punctual and co-ordinated railway. 

“I am ensuring the recommendations I propose are fit for a post-Covid world, but these contracts kickstart a process of reform that will ensure our railways are entirely focused on the passenger, with a simpler, more effective system that works in their best interest.”  

Calls to end ‘blight of graffiti’ on roads and railways as part of Great British September Clean

Action is being taken to tackle the ‘blight’ of graffiti on Britain’s roads and railways as part of the Great British September Clean, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced (Tuesday 15 September).

In a letter to the rail industry, the Transport Secretary has called for long-term plans to tackle the issue. These proposals should build on action already taken, including a review of response times to graffiti vandalism so any instances are dealt with quickly, helping to prevent more serious crimes and passengers to feel safe when returning to the railway.

Network Rail has already undertaken significant work in this area, allocating an additional £1million in the spring to carry out a graffiti blitz on top of its annual £3.5million programme of anti-graffiti measures.

Graffiti on the railway can be unsightly, make passengers feel unsafe and, if not dealt with quickly, can lead to further crime taking place. People often put their lives at risk in the act of spraying difficult surfaces, such as bridges or trains in sidings. 

During the lockdown period, Highways England has also undertaken a cleaning blitz around main roads – removing 33% more graffiti compared to the same time last year. Highways England will now double the level of its resources and activity, to speed up graffiti removal rates on the road network across England.

The Transport Secretary visited London Bridge on Monday (14 September) to see first-hand the clean-up work carried out by Network Rail’s southern graffiti taskforce.

He also visited a railway arch mural created by street artist Jimmy C.in memory of the victims of the London Bridge terror attacks. The series of hearts floating in space on Stoney Street is one of a 100 murals produced by the artist – and fellow street artist Lionel Stanhope – set to be in place across stations in the South East by Spring 2021.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“The phenomenal efforts have been made throughout this pandemic to ensure our transport network is clean and maintained to the highest standards, helping keep people safe, and people deserve roads and railways that are not blighted by graffiti and vandalism.

“As we continue our focus on building back better as we recover from COVID-19, I want us to feel proud of our transport infrastructure and public spaces. Our extra investment to remove graffiti from our roads and railways means we can double our efforts to fight this issue and represents a positive step in the right direction.”

Richard McIlwain, Deputy Chief Executive of environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, said:

“We would encourage everyone to do their bit to help clean up the country and, during the Great British September Clean, ridding our transport network of the graffiti would be a positive step towards creating a better environment for everyone.

“Places that are covered in graffiti, particularly low-grade tagging, signal to the community at large that an area is unloved and uncared for and leads to increases in other environmental crimes such as littering and fly-tipping so we would urge everyone who is responsible for looking after our transport network to keep it graffiti and litter-free.”

The Government has been working closely with train operators to increase services back to close to normal levels as passenger numbers increase, putting in extensive measures in place to make sure their services are safe to use, including heightened cleaning procedures, queue management systems, and providing hand sanitiser in the busiest stations on the network.  

Action taken to improve resilience of railway following Stonehaven tragedy

Network Rail’s interim report on the Stonehaven tragedy, commissioned by the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps immediately after the event, has been published today (Thursday, September 10), setting out immediate and long-term action to improve the railway’s resilience to extreme weather events following the derailment of a passenger train in Aberdeenshire.

While the report in no way pre-empts the outcome of formal independent investigations being carried out by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, or those by the Office of Rail and Road, British Transport Police and Police Scotland into the tragedy on August 12, the initial findings suggest that after a period of heavy rainfall the train struck a pile of washed-out rock and gravel before derailing.

The interim report assesses the current controls and management of thousands of miles of earthworks – the sloped ground beside railway tracks – and sets out how the industry plans to reduce the risk of landslips on the network in the future.

The report highlights the need for an increased focus on deploying technology across the network to predict failures, and investment in better forecasting to enable local decisions for imminent weather events. Network Rail’s extensive research and development portfolio is helping to accelerate the development and deployment of this technology.

Key findings also suggest that industry rules for reporting and responding to adverse rainfall will be improved and strengthened, helping signallers better manage services during bad weather. Other plans include discussions with meteorologists to understand how real-time information can be better used to inform train operations about unpredictable extreme weather.

Hundreds of sites across the country have been inspected over the last three weeks by engineers, specialist contractors and supplemented by helicopter surveys to identify any significant issues requiring emergency intervention.

It follows the launch of two independent task forces, which will be led by distinguished experts in their field – Lord Mair and Dame Julia Slingo – to help Network Rail better manage its vast number of cuttings and embankments and its response to severe weather events.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
“The incident at Stonehaven was a tragedy, and my heart goes out to the friends and family of Driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie, and Christopher Stuchbury.

“We owe it to those who lost their lives, were injured, and were affected by this incident, to learn and act on every possible lesson to ensure this is never repeated. The independent investigation will enable us to understand exactly what went wrong, and make sure it does not happen again.

“We cannot delay learning the lessons. That is why I immediately commissioned this report and am making the interim findings available. I welcome the work setting out the challenges in adapting our rail infrastructure to cope with increasing extreme weather events caused by climate change. The task is now to overcome those challenges.

“We will use the findings of this interim report to improve, shape and accelerate our work to build a more robust and resilient rail network, so that our railway continues to be one of the safest in the world.”

The Secretary of State is also writing to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Iain Thomas Livingstone, recommending that PC Liam Mercer, one of the first people on scene following the derailment, is commended for his bravery.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said:
“My thoughts remain with the families and friends of the three people who lost their lives, those who were injured and everybody affected by the tragedy at Stonehaven last month. We owe it to them, and all our passengers, to make sure we understand what happened and what more we should be doing to reduce the risk of it ever happening again.

“We are all aware that we are increasingly seeing more incidents of severe weather and as the report published today shows, earthworks and drainage infrastructure– some of which are more than 150 years old – prove to be a real challenge as the country experiences more heavy rainfall and flooding.

“Our railway is one of the safest in Europe and tragic accidents are incredibly rare, but something went wrong on 12 August near Stonehaven and it is a stark reminder that we must never take safety for granted. We are improving and accelerating our resilience work and will do everything we can to minimise the impact of weather on the safety and reliability of the railway as our climate continues to change.”

Between 2019-24, Network Rail has made a record investment of £1.3 billion in strengthening the railway’s resilience to extreme weather, compared with £550m from 2009-2014 and £952m from 2014-2019.

Network Rail has developed industry-leading techniques to monitor and manage ageing cuttings and embankments deemed high risk, while the Government’s Committee on Climate Change recognises its resilience planning for climate change adaptation as well advanced. However, with the impact of severe weather events experienced in recent years it has become even more important to swiftly implement these plans.

Today’s interim report will be followed by a final report which will be published in due course. This will provide greater detail on work that can be accelerated to improve the railway’s management of extreme weather and earthworks.

Transport Secretary launches new Acceleration Unit to speed up transport infrastructure projects and build back better from Covid

  • ‘Acceleration Unit’ launched to speed up delivery of transport projects as Government announces new wave of funding to level up parts of UK
  • Campaign for Better Transport Chief Executive and consumer champion Darren Shirley to lead the new team of non-Government specialists to drive forward progress on key projects
  • Launch coincides with around £360m of investment to build back better from Covid-19

Vital rail and road upgrades that will create jobs, increase connectivity, and boost the economy will be delivered more quickly, thanks to the launch of a new Acceleration Unit announced by the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today (Friday, 21 August).

The new team of specialists will join the Department for Transport (DfT) in order to tackle delays to infrastructure projects and drive forward progress for passengers.

The unit is set to be in place next month and will be directly accountable to the Transport Secretary. It will be led by Darren Shirley, currently Chief Executive of the Campaign for Better Transport and formerly of Which? Magazine.

Alongside the Acceleration Unit, the Transport Secretary today announced a raft of ambitious upgrades to Wales’ railways, with £343m of investment to deliver better, faster, more reliable journeys for passengers.

This includes kickstarting design work on plans to upgrade Cardiff Central station, and funding to develop plans for upgraded cutting-edge digital signalling on the 241-kilometre Cambrian line from Shrewsbury Sutton Bridge Junction to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli, and proposals to speed up journeys between Cardiff and Swansea, Chester and Llandudno Junction, and the Severn Tunnel and Cardiff.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“As Britain begins to get moving once again after four months of lockdown, no-one should underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead.

“We want to accelerate Britain’s recovery by investing in vital infrastructure that will help get businesses back on their feet, create jobs to replace those that have been lost and level up our country. 

“The creation of our new Acceleration Unit and investment in our roads and railways will ensure we build back better, greener and faster in the future.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said: 

This £360 million investment in our roads and railways will help drive our economic recovery from coronavirus – creating jobs and levelling-up by ensuring businesses across all corners of the UK have the opportunities they need to grow.”

Darren Shirley, Head of the Acceleration Unit, said:

“I am delighted to take on this important new role, bringing a fresh perspective and external advice to accelerate the delivery of key infrastructure projects and programmes.

“The breadth and depth of expertise in my new team will stand us in a good stead as we look to deliver the schemes that will help the country to rebuild faster through decarbonising the transport system and levelling up Britain as we emerge from the Coronavirus crisis.”

The Acceleration Unit will also engage experts with significant experience in delivering infrastructure projects including Highways England’s Director of Complex Infrastructure projects, Chris Taylor, who oversaw the construction of the £1.5 billion A14 scheme which was not only delivered on budget but eight months ahead of schedule, and Mark Reynolds of MACE, who oversaw the construction of the Nightingale hospital in East London in nine days.

The creation of the team follows the establishment of a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council, dedicated to swiftly levelling up infrastructure across the north’s towns and cities, forming a direct link between Westminster and local leaders.

Today’s news comes after the Transport Secretary visited the A14 in Cambridgeshire yesterday (Wednesday, 19 August), a £1.5 billion upgrade between Cambridge and Huntingdon. 

Completed on budget and opened eight months ahead of the project’s planned completion date, the last of the 24/7 roadworks were removed in May thanks to efficient and innovative construction techniques such as trialling autonomous dumper trucks, 3D modelling and using prefabrication yards to build structures off site and wheeling them into place when ready. 

The Transport Secretary also unveiled a host of further road and rail investments today, including:

  • £1.1 million investment for Network Rail to develop short-term plans to relieve overcrowding at London Liverpool Street station.
  • Funding to complete the £6.4 million scheme to build a new second footbridge serving all four platforms at St Albans City station, easing congestion and addressing safety issues at an increasingly busy station. Work’s due to start early 2021 and be complete by January 2022. 
  • £4 million to develop the design phase for gauge enhancement and track improvements for freight trains on Great Western, Midland Main Lines and at Darlington to allow longer intermodal freight trains to operate from Teesport to Yorkshire. The Darlington scheme will be delivered by October 2020.
  • £9.74 million for signalling and infrastructure enhancements delivered on the Wessex route at Twickenham, Bracknell and Virginia Water as part of the Feltham and Wokingham Signalling Renewal Programme. This will help improve the reliability and flexibility of services starting from Easter 2021.
  • Highways England will also today launch their Strategic Business Plan and Delivery Plan, both for 2020-2025. The two documents will set out how the Company will take forward the ambitious plans set out in the Government’s RIS2 strategy to improve England’s road network. The Delivery Plan will confirm the delivery schedule for road upgrades and schemes the Government will be funding over the next five years.

Rail passengers see major service boost with new £40 million Stevenage station platform

Dedicated fifth platform and track at Stevenage station will enable more frequent and reliable services

£40million project, delivered over a year ahead of the revised schedule, will provide better connectivity with other destinations on the East Coast Main Line

Completion of the work marks an important milestone in the wider £1.2 billion upgrade of the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh
Rail passengers now have more frequent and reliable services as well as better long-distance connections thanks to a new £40million platform and track at Stevenage station, Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris has announced today (Monday, August 3). Construction work on the project has been accelerated and delivered more than a year ahead of the revised schedule.

On a visit to the station today where Platform 5 was officially opened to the first weekday services, the Rail Minister hailed the completion of the project as an important milestone in the wider £1.2 billion upgrade of the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh. 

Work began in early 2019 to build a dedicated fifth platform where GTR’s Great Northern trains from the Hertford North line, known as the Hertford Loop, could terminate and then go back towards London creating space on the existing tracks for Thameslink trains and restoring the train service between Stevenage and the Hertford Loop served by buses since May 2019.

With the new platform and track separating out the local Hertford Loop services from the longer distance mainline Great Northern, Thameslink and LNER trains, there will be better reliability.

The restored train service running between Stevenage’s new platform and the Hertford Loop will be an improved all-day, twice-hourly service between Stevenage and Hertford North, giving passengers from the loop better connections with the fast main line services which stop at Stevenage.

Network Rail worked with GTR to accelerate the revised project which has been delivered over 12 months earlier than planned. The new platform includes a passenger lift and stairs to an extended station footbridge along with two waiting rooms, three sets of seating, a help point and ticket machine

.Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:
“Our ambition is not just to deliver more punctual journeys, but to deliver major projects punctually as well.

“This new platform and track at Stevenage will mean more frequent and reliable services for passengers who use the line day in day out.

“Thanks to the hard work of Network Rail and GTR who have worked tirelessly to accelerate the project, we have reached an important milestone in our ambitious £1.2billion East Coast upgrade, which will bring improved connections, faster journeys, thousands of extra seats per day and more choice for passengers.”

Paul Rutter, Network Rail Route Director, said:
This vital project to build a bay platform at Stevenage is part of a programme of investment that will allow additional services to run on the East Coast Main Line, bringing more choice, more seats and a more reliable railway for passengers.   

“It will also bring more resilient local services on the Hertford Loop, as trains will soon be able to terminate at Stevenage and then go back towards London.

  “We would like to thank passengers who have needed to use bus replacement services between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone, station users and people who live near the railway for their continued patience whilst this essential part of the East Coast Upgrade was completed. “ 

 Steve White, GTR Chief Operating Officer, said:
The most recent independent customer satisfaction survey showed Great Northern as the most improved operator. This is more good news for our customers.

“We have worked closely with Network Rail on this important project as part of the continuing transformation of our railway. This new, additional, platform will help us run services more punctually on both the Great Northern metro and mainline services.

“The new platform also means that we can start running our Hertford services to and from Stevenage again giving our customers from that area fast, convenient, step-free connections at the station to Cambridge, London, Gatwick and Brighton.

“The Government’s £1.2billion investment in the East Coast Upgrade between 2014 and 2024 will improve passenger journeys, create capacity for up to 10,000 extra seats a day on long-distance services, speed up journeys and improve reliability for passengers.

Major work is also taking place at King’s Cross and near Peterborough, where a new section of railway is being built at Werrington so trains, particularly freight, can get to and from the line to Spalding, freeing up space on the East Coast Main Line for extra passenger services.

The East Coast Main Line is also set to become Britain’s first mainline digital rail link with £350 million of new investment to install state-of-the art electronic signalling designed to cut journey times and slash delays.

Conventional signalling will be replaced with a digital system that allows trains to talk to the track allowing the smooth the flow of trains, making journeys safer and reduce signal failures that every year result in thousands of hours of delays.  

£589m to kickstart rail upgrades across the North

  • Over £600m worth of investment in northern rail network will drive improvements across the region, including release £589m for work to upgrade and electrify Transpennine main line  
  • New Council, led by Grant Shapps as Northern Powerhouse Minister, will give northern leaders ‘direct line’ to ministers to accelerate transport projects 
  • Body’s work to drive progress across the North will be supported by DfT staff based in northern cities

£589m to kickstart work on the Transpennine main line between Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester has been confirmed today by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps alongside the establishment of a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council, dedicated to accelerating vital infrastructure projects and better connecting communities across the North’s towns and cities.

The most congested section of the route will be doubled from two to four tracks, allowing fast trains to overtake slower ones, improving journey times and reliability for passengers across the North. Most of the line will be electrified, and our ambition is to go further. Full electrification, digital signalling, more multi-tracking and improved freight capacity are now under consideration as part of an “Integrated Rail Plan” due to report in December. 

Those improvements would allow all-electric services between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle; bring longer and more frequent trains; and create significantly more local capacity along the line. 

Upgrades to allow more freight on the route, replacing thousands of diesel lorry journeys with electric freight trains, will also be considered in the Plan.

Work is also under way to tackle the bottlenecks at either end of the route, without which the upgrade’s potential cannot be fulfilled. Leeds station is being resignalled and a new platform is being built. In central Manchester, development funding was awarded last month to tackle rail congestion. 

The Council launched today will ensure northern leaders have a direct line to ministers and has been formed with the desire to cut bureaucracy and red tape so passengers can get the modern, reliable transport network they deserve as quickly as possible.

As part of the government’s wider strategy to level up communities and strengthen devolution, the Council’s work will engage with Department for Transport (DfT) staff based in northern cities and dedicated to delivering for the North.

This follows the announcement of a range of investments to level-up infrastructure across the North including £20m to deliver infrastructure renewals on the Tyne and Wear Metro, following £15m announced to upgrade Horden, Darlington and Middlesbrough stations.

Transport Secretary and Northern Powerhouse Minister Grant Shapps said: 

“People across the North rightly expect action, progress and ambition, and this government is determined to accelerate improvements as we invest billions to level up the region’s infrastructure. 

“We are determined to build back better at pace, and this new council will allow us to engage collectively and directly with elected northern leaders to build the vital projects the region is crying out for.” 

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said:

“Levelling-up opportunity will be key in our recovery from Coronavirus – and our long-term success will rely on having world-class infrastructure in all parts of the country. The Transpennine rail upgrade shows we are delivering on our promises to the North.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said:

“This feels like a gear change from the government in the delivery of transport improvements in the North of England and I welcome the new drive that the Transport Secretary is bringing to this. 

“People here deserve a modern, reliable public transport system and it is my hope that the Northern Transport Acceleration Council will bring forward the day when that is a reality. It is crucial that the Council listens to the voice of the North and is accountable to people here through their elected politicians and bodies such as Transport for the North.

“The additional funding for the Transpennine Route Upgrade is a welcome sign of intent from the government. The North has long argued for the existing scheme to be upgraded to bring the full range of passenger and freight benefits and we are glad that the government has listened to this. But it is important to be clear that upgrading the existing railway between Manchester and Leeds does not diminish the need for a new line in Northern Powerhouse Rail nor does it solve the capacity issues in central Manchester which require a separate solution.

“As we look to recover from Covid-19 and build back better, I am ready to work in constructive partnership with the government to get visible transport improvements as quickly as possible. My top priority is to build a London-style, integrated public transport system in Greater Manchester and I look forward to working with the Secretary of State on making this vision a reality.” 

The Northern Transport Acceleration Council will hold its first meeting in September and will be made up of mayors and council leaders with the Transport Secretary as chair. It will work closely with the Northern Powerhouse Growth Body to improve outcomes for people and places in the North. 

Its establishment and the announcement of funds for upgrade works are the latest in a range of investments this government has put into northern transport.  

In March, the DfT took over the running of rail services on the Northern network to deliver vital improvements and ensure that passengers are given the level of service they deserve. 

At Budget the Chancellor confirmed over £720m investment in local transport across the North through the Transforming Cities Fund.  

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said:

“As the country begins its economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic it’s vital that Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool have the tools and infrastructure to play their part and achieve their potential. 

“This new body will not only give leaders like me another avenue to press our transport case to ministers. DfT staff based in the North will also see first-hand the challenges and opportunities we face, and the improvements and projects needed to unlock further growth and prosperity, with the ability to act on these.

“It’s also great to see more funding for the critical upgrades necessary to the Transpennine Route, which are desperately needed to bring about transformational change across the network. This will help increase capacity, reliability and connectivity between Redcar and Middlesbrough to York, Leeds and Manchester, giving our passengers, businesses and, ultimately, freight services the links they deserve.”

Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government Simon Clarke MP said:

“Improving infrastructure to help better connect communities is key to this Government’s mission to level up every region.

“The new Northern Transport Council is an important step and will help to accelerate and deliver the tangible improvements people across the Northern Powerhouse want to see.”

In May ministers gave the go-ahead to the A63 Castle Street scheme, which will better connect Hull’s city centre with the city’s retail and docks area and help boost economic growth in the region. 

And earlier this month the government provided £1m to fund a business case to transform the Queensbury Tunnel in to a greenway cycling and pedestrian link between Halifax and Bradford.  

At the end of this year the government will publish the Integrated Rail Plan, specifically looking at how to deliver NPR, HS2 and other rail needs as quickly and efficiently as possible for the North.