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
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.
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.