The Government has awarded a new contract to Arriva CrossCountry to continue running train services until October 2023.
The agreement will see the Government take on the revenue and cost risk associated with the franchise, in line with Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements announced in September.
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.
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“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.”
This 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.
The 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. This will incentivise the company to deliver improvements to operational performance, passenger experience and service quality.
CrossCountry managing director Tom Joyner said: “This is great news for our customers and stakeholders and recognises the importance of our continuing to deliver long-distance business and leisure services across England, Scotland and Wales.
“Our trains connect towns and cities, people and communities across Great Britain, and this will be essential as we rebuild our national and local economies.
“We will continue to focus on highlighting the benefits of rail travel and ensuring our customers can travel with confidence.”
Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Cash said: “The Government, who are financially supporting the train operators, should have seized the opportunity to cut out the middleman and bring the CrossCountry operation into direct public ownership.
“RMT will be studying the details of this award carefully and our priority will remain protecting the jobs, pay and conditions of our members.”
Stretching from Aberdeen to Penzance and from Stansted Airport to Cardiff, CrossCountry’s network is the most geographically extensive passenger rail franchise in Britain. Calling at over 100 stations, it connects seven of Britain’s 10 largest cities.