The meeting opened by noting the sad loss, early in June, of Chris Benson who had, until around four years ago, been Northern Station Manager in our area and a great friend of several volunteer railway groups, including Coastliners who had been represented at Chris's funeral at Malton.
John O'Grady (Client and Stakeholder Manager, Northern Rail , Tees, South & East Yorkshire) provided us with a Power Point presentation on Northern Rail's operations
The DfT have recently granted Northern a Direct Award, extending their franchise to 6th February 2016. However with less subsidy (£632m) than they requested it is a case of doing more with less. Under this new award Northern shoulder all the revenue risks. The original franchise had been let on a no growth, no capital investment basis, whereas Northern had seen a 47% growth to 93m journeys per year. However they had been able to lever in £130m from local funds to spend mainly on station improvements and train upgrades - upholstery, paintwork & toilets etc.
The new regime would see concentration on the Right Time Railway, taking into account punctuality at all station stops rather than just the terminal point as in the present PPM system. Under MD Alex Hynes, the company had been reorganised under three directors Customer Experience, Operations and Delivery. There was to be a six figure investment in new ticket machines and customer information systems at 100 more stations. There would be continuing support for Community Rail. At the insistence of DfT who wished to see more fares income, evening peak restrictions were to be introduced on some lines - in the North East just Newcastle to Hexham.
The period running up to the awarding of a new franchise in 2016 would see the first fruits of £1.5bn investments in infrastructure - notably electrification in the north west & new stations in Yorkshire. There were also proposals for stations at Peterlee & Gilsland.
Northern were also looking at electrification from Newcastle to MetroCentre for trains to Morpeth, but the view of the meeting was that Morpeth would be better served by extending Trans Pennine services.
We also discussed the DfT consultation on the Northern/Trans Pennine Express new franchises click here to view pdf