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Monday, 24 November 2014

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New Tyne Valley rail franchisee will face a rocky ride

THERE are three contenders for the right to run the rail franchise which includes the lucrative Tyne Valley Line.

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Liam Carr has condemned the rise in rail fares.

The Government announced on Tuesday that Abellio Northern Ltd, Arriva Rail North Limited and Govia Northern Limited had been short-listed for the task of transforming rail services in the region.

Bidders will be expected to show how they will make the most of the government’s £1bn investment programme for the rail network in the North of England, which is intended to provide faster and more reliable journeys, more capacity, better trains and improved connections for passengers across the region.

The potential operators will need to demonstrate how they will increase capacity in order to tackle crowding and meet future passenger demand; provide faster and more frequent services; and upgrade rolling stock, including proposals to replace ageing Pacer trains

However, the successful bidder will have to pacify an enraged workforce, for rail union RMT says the new franchise will involve axing jobs, raising fares, cancelling key services and closing ticket offices, as well as leaving safety “on a knife edge.”

It was announced last week that off-peak fares on the Tyne Valley Line are to axed and confirmed this week that fares are to go up at a rate higher than the rate of inflation.

A season ticket from Hexham to Newcastle will cost £1,280 a year – up £44– Hexham to Carlisle £,2379 – up £83 – and Prudhoe to Newcastle £961 – up £33.

It’s a move which has been condemned by the prospective Labour candidate for Hexham at next year’s General Election, Liam Carr.

Mr Carr said: “ The increases to off peak and season ticket prices are set at inflation plus one per cent.

“Rail companies are then allowed some flexibility and may add an extra increase on busy services such as the Tyne Valley line.

“Under the Tories rail fares are up by over 20 per cent since 2010.”

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