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“Rail is undergoing a renaissance. According to the Office for Rail Regulation, upwards of 1.6bn journeys are now made on Britain’s railways – more than double the number of 20 years ago.
In northern England, passenger numbers are up nearly 50% in the last decade, and there is good reason to predict faster growth to come. Investment in rail is being put at the heart of efforts to re-balance the economy away from London; supporting communities and attracting investment to the north.
Against this backdrop, plans are being drawn up for the north of England’s two main rail franchises – Northern Rail and TransPennine Express. Both are due to begin in early 2016 and the Department for Transport is consulting on what those new franchises should look like. But rather than a plan for growth and investment, the Department for Transport consultation talks of trade-offs and doing more with less. This could result in a strategy which focuses on cuts to some services and increasing fares.
At the heart of the debate are myths about the north’s rail network. This myth-buster sets the record straight on why the north’s rail services should be the target of investment. It challenges the view that northern services are highly subsidised and under-used, and that passenger growth in the north lags behind other parts of the country.
It also highlights the absence of firm plans to invest in vital infrastructure such as new trains, and incoherence in proposals to cut services in some places in order to improve services elsewhere. The communities and economy of the north will only get the rail network they need with bold targets for growth supported by an on-going investment strategy. This needs to be at the heart of the new franchises for Northern Rail and TransPennine Express.”