The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) today announced that Arriva Trains Ltd has been selected as the preferred bidder for the new Wales & Borders Franchise with responsibility for operating all local and regional train services in Wales and the Border counties. The decision follows a comprehensive competitive tendering process.
It is planned that Arriva Trains Ltd will take over the franchise by the end of 2003 and operate it for fifteen years, subject to five-year Performance Review assessments.
The key commitments contained within the new franchise include:
- Creation of an integrated Wales & Borders franchise structured around services currently operated today;
- Introduction of seven class 150 Diesel Multiple Units planned from December 2004, leading to greater operational flexibility and resilience, to replace current, less suitable stock;
- Introduction of 30 new integrated train / bus tickets by November 2005, permitting many new opportunities for through journeys;
- Improved bi-lingual access, including a Welsh Language customer service phone line, passenger timetables and information, full bi-lingual signage and recorded station announcements at stations where there are existing public address systems by May 2004;
- Introduction of the new, customer-focused 'Station Adopter' scheme;
- £400,000 on improving station car parks at Cardiff Central (Wood Street), Chester, Hereford, Newport and Shrewsbury;
- Final development of a simplified timetable, making train services much easier for passengers to use, as well as better performance and connections, for implementation within the first three years of the franchise for the Valley Lines and inter-urban services;
- Abolition of the £1 reservation charge for bicycles on trains;
- A better compensation scheme for passengers.
- SRA Chairman, Richard Bowker, said:
"This is a major step towards the new integrated Welsh franchise. The specification of the new franchise has been designed to encourage more people to use rail and places a strong emphasis on local accountability and management. This has all been achieved through a partnership between the Welsh Assembly Government and the SRA. Arriva now have a short period in which to reach Franchise Agreement signature with the Authority, with the aim of taking over the franchise by the end of the year."
Notes to Editors
- The Wales & Borders franchise includes all local and regional passenger rail services within Wales, services from Cardiff to Hereford, Shrewsbury and Manchester, and those from Wales to Birmingham, North West England and the West Country. The services are currently operated under existing franchise agreements by National Express Group plc, using the 'Wales & Borders' branding - with the exception of services in North Wales and parts of the North West of England, currently operated by First Group plc (as First North Western).
- The new franchise will include the operation of all stations in Wales, and those predominantly served by the new franchise in the border counties, including Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford. It will include the current Passenger Service Requirement as well as additional service commitments.
- Long-distance high-speed services to and from Wales will continue to be operated by First Great Western, Virgin CrossCountry and Virgin West Coast.