Transpennine and Northern franchise competitions begin

Ministers have begun the bidding for the new Transpennine and Northern rail franchises.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has published an OJEU notice for both franchises, which are set to begin in February 2016, seeking expressions of interest from operators looking to take over the routes.

A shortlist of operators which have been invited to tender for either or both franchises will be published later this year. Prospective operators will have until April 2015 to get their bids in.

In March, the current operator of the Northern franchise, a Serco-Abellio joint venture, was given an extension to keep control of the route until February 2016. The negotiations also resulted in the DfT agreeing to give the operator 14 Class 319, formerly of First Capital Connect, to introduce onto a newly-electrified section of railway between Liverpool and Manchester.

Since conducting a wide-reaching review of its franchising programme, the government has been following a new revised franchise schedule. Last month, the DfT hit a major target by awarding the seven-year Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise to Govia.

However, the department admitted that there would be a two-month delay in the awarding of the Essex Thameside franchise.