Ministers have awarded Arriva a new contract to run CrossCountry rail services for three more years ‘as the future direction of rail reform takes shape’.
Arriva CrossCountry, has operated the franchise since 2007, with repeated extensions.
The new contract will see the Government take on the revenue and cost risk associated with the franchise and pay Arriva a performance-linked fee to run the service, which ‘will incentivise the company to deliver improvements to operational performance, passenger experience and service quality’.
Reflecting uncertainty over the exact model that will replace the current franchising arrangements, the Department for Transport (DfT) said the latest extension ‘will provide certainty for passengers and staff as the future direction of rail reform takes shape’.
Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: ‘This agreement ensures that vital train services will continue across the UK’s most extensive rail network, as the country continues to fight and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘The deal announced today reaffirms our commitment to ending the complicated franchise system and is focused on the best interests of passengers, delivering better services and helping create a new kind of railway.
‘With a real focus on boosting capacity and seizing the opportunity to create more environmentally sustainable services, this new contract will benefit passengers in the long term, improving their experience when travelling on our railways.’
The DfT said the new contract complements the Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs) announced in September, in place for up to 18 months, where the Government pays train companies a small management fee to keep services running through the pandemic.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of watchdog Transport Focus, said: 'We welcome this deal which protects vital services for passengers for the next three years. Passengers want stability – they rely on the railway to get them to where they need to be and need confidence that their service will run.
'Extra seats, more on-board staff and better services for vulnerable passengers will help continue to make rail an attractive option.'
CrossCountry is the most geographically extensive passenger rail franchise in Britain, calling at over 100 stations, and connecting seven of Britain’s 10 largest cities.