03 October 2016

Cross Country Continues


Rail passengers across Britain are set to benefit from quicker journeys, thousands of extra seats and free Wi-Fi, after the government agreed a new deal for services for the Cross Country franchise.

Under the contract, which will deliver improved connections, a better customer experience and set tough new targets, Arriva Cross Country (AXC) will continue to run services which stretch from Aberdeen to Penzance, Bournemouth to Manchester and from Stansted to Cardiff until October 2019.

Rail Minister Paul Maynard said:

We are making the biggest investment in the railways since the Victorian era and today (29 September 2016) is a key milestone in giving passengers better journeys right across the Cross Country network.

The franchise, which spans parts of England, Scotland and Wales, serves both commuters and long distance passengers and these benefits from Arriva Cross Country will deliver extra and smoother journeys for customers using these services.

The new deal will deliver a range of new benefits for passengers including:

  • 39,000 more seats at peak times along the Edinburgh to Plymouth route through Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol, by December 2017

  • shorter journey times from Birmingham to Manchester – typical cut of 9 minutes on a weekday and 12 minutes at weekends

  • £20 million government investment in more modern trains

  • free Wi-Fi by April 2018 and 4G for faster download speeds

  • extra services calling at Morpeth

  • customer services now open 24/7 and a new mobile app to buy tickets and check live running times

  • challenging targets on punctuality and service reliability to improve the passenger experience

  • waiving the £10 ‘change of travel’ fee for advance tickets from January 2017

  • £340,000 of funding for community rail partnerships across the Cross Country network per year

043384 Cross Country

Arriva Cross Country Managing Director, Andy Cooper, said:

We are delighted to have the opportunity to deliver even more for our customers over the next 3 years through this new agreement. Satisfaction is the theme for the range of investments we will be making, with better, faster journeys with more seats and free Wi-Fi.

We will also be looking to our customers for feedback on how we can deliver them great journeys, and a strong focus on engaging with the many communities and stakeholders our trains serve across the country.

Virgin Cross Country

Arriva Cross Country will now start work on its new timetable that could introduce thousands of extra seats across the network from December 2017. It will pay the government a premium of £163 million to operate the franchise from September 2016 until October 2019.


  1. The Times (Graeme Paton) reports that Britain’s longest rail franchise, the CrossCountry network, has been handed to German-owned Arriva in a move that will herald more seats, faster services and free wi-fi. It was announced yesterday that the Deutsche Bahn-owned company will run the network until late 2019 under a ‘direct award’ deal brokered by the government. The DfT insisted that the operator will be set tough new punctuality targets to improve standards, while a further 39,000 seats will be made available at peak times along the Edinburgh to Plymouth route. Arriva CrossCountry would pay the government a premium of £163m to operate the franchise from now till October 2019, however, the award has been criticised by rail unions. The RMT’s Mick Cash said: ‘This will not represent value for money. The much trumpeted 39,000 more seats at peak times is an annual figure and in fact amounts to 107 seats per day. This is cold comfort for the hundreds standing in overcrowded trains each day.’

    1. Presumably the line "£20 million government investment in more modern trains" refers to replacing the HSTs, but with what? And note the words are "more modern", not "new".

    2. I believe the HSTs will have power doors fitted on the coaches to meet dda regulations and will be used more intensivly. Two voyager power cars withdrawn by virgin will be brought back into use to. Two 5 car voyager set's reduced from 5 car to 4 car with the two coaches added to the ex virgin set to produce a extra 4 car voyager

  2. For the first time in my life, I find myself agreeing with Mr Cash. What this overcrowded company needs is a fresh batch of trains to supplement the hopelessly inadequate Voyagers, not More of The Same until 2019.

  3. Tonight (Tues 3 Oct) CrossCountry are once again not allowing their laughingly named voyager units west to Paignton or Plymouth, in case the spray at Dawlish (easterly winds) stalls the electrics. This has gone on for years without the DfT seemingly bothered one iota. In fact, as highlighted above, the franchise has been extended. What a total joke.

  4. Presumably the new mobile app will make it even easier to reserve a seat just a few minutes before boarding the train thus forcing the hapless passenger sitting in what was an unreserved seat when they started their journey to attempt to find another empty seat in a busy train. Cross-Country 'Voyager' operated trains should come with the warning not to travel unless you have reserved a seat. Oh and don't forget your packed food and drink as there won't be room for the refreshment trolley to make it's way to your seat. Plymouth to Edinburgh (or even further) on a Voyager - no thanks!

  5. I strongly suspect the "more modern trains" will be phasing out the Turbostars on the Norwich - Manchester Airport runs

  6. There are no Norwich-Man Airport runs and Norwich to Liverpool is East Midlands Trains and 158. Stansted to Brum is 170 and will remain so. Also the Times doesn't seem to realise XC is already Arriva (German Rail)

  7. Arriva have stated:
    "A £20m investment by the Government to further modernise CrossCountry’s HST fleet, including powered doors"
    That would suggest that they are going to spend the whole £20m on fitting doors to the HST sets. That could be achieved either by a knife and fork conversion of the existing coaches, as Chiltern did a few years ago. Or by inserting trailer cars from the Class 442 Wessex Elextric units, now in store at Ely. They had power doors from new and are now redundant. If this option were chosen, that would account for the "more modern" not "new" statement. There's not much wrong with those coaches, but they won't add any capacity. And David Blythe's suggestion about using two Voyager power cars to make an extra set sounds plausible. But they will mean even fewer 5 car sets and more of the horrible little 4 car sets.

    Even more excuse for you to be turfed out of your non-rerserved seat! What a shambles !

  8. I too would like to see more HSTs on the longer runs, with modifications such as power-operated doors. Now can anyone think of a train operator that might be disposing of a number of HSTs in the next couple of years? :)

    I would also like Cross-Country to operate the same policy as Virgin Trains in having one designated coach in standard class completely unreserved.

  9. The CrossCountry Dawlish farce took reached new heights on Wed 5 Oct when the 10.07 Paignton to Manchester actually started at Birmingham due to "high winds",

  10. Being fare the whole XC franchise is a mess ever since Virgin brought in the Voyagers, which where supposed to improve the service, but got so bad Virgin was given the boot(I believe). What the XC franchise needs is new AT300 trains, for example a nine coach set could be divided up into 3 or 4 classes. 1)First 2) Standard Non Resvervable 3) Standard Reserved 4) Quiet Zone. Given that XC do not want fully fitted kitchens on its trains you would probably find more seats in First Class(due to the less space taken up for catering). It would leave the Voyagers to East Midlands, replacing its HSTs, and the Meridians to go to Scotland, saving them having to convert 40 year old HSTs.

    1. I think the big problem over the Voyagers is that Virgin specified them on the basis of a massive increase in frequency of the Cross-Country network without anyone seeming to check whether the network could accommodate this increase, which it couldn't in the end. This led to shorter trains running a similar frequency to previously leading to massive overcrowding. The Cross-Country network has been crying out for bigger trains ever since the Virgin big bang failed to materialise (& has been cut back progressively by the DfT at the edges to allow more capacity on routes into London), it always confuses me why so many trains are specified so short when we need more capacity on so many mainline routes (I assume it is something to do with allowing future flexibility when asked to do services to places with very short stations, just fit everything with SDO from new so they can be flexible in the future until you can lengthen the stations).

      It would make more sense to send the Voyagers to Scotland as they are smaller than the EMT Meridians & HSTs but about the size ScotRail intend to convert their HSTs to be, though I suspect passengers would prefer the older HSTs as they are still more comfortable than anything else. The Voyagers would probably be better replacing 158s or 170s on the longer non-XC cross country links like Birmingham to Stansted (though this actually is XC with Turbostars), Liverpool to Norwich, Cardiff to Portsmouth & the like where they may actually offer more comfort & definitely more capacity on corridors that do have overcrowding issues.

    2. You mention fully fitted kitchens - do any new trains have these now. I was assuming that the withdrawal of HSTs in favour of 'more modern' trains would be the end of the dining car service offering a full meal cooked on board.


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