Jobs fears as rail franchise winner announced

Coun John Fillis

Coun John Fillis

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Promises of a “world-class rail service” for Lancashire have been welcomed by rail users – but unions warn that thousands of workers could face cuts as a new operator was announced.

Arriva Rail North Limited is to take over the Northern Rail franchise in April from current operator Serco Abellio. First Trans Pennine Express will continue to run trains on its share of the lines.

The Government said together, the two operators will oversee a massive £1.2bn boost to rail services with 500 brand-new modern carriages, room for 40,000 more passengers, thousands more services and a host of improvements across the north to deliver a modern, 21st century passenger experience.

And local railway users said if the promises were kept then it could mean the outdated Pacer trains being replaced by 2019 and 281 brand new air-conditioned vehicles, double the minimum specified, with brand new electric trains as well, and not just refurbished Class 319’s on the electrified Lancashire system when it is completed.

County Coun John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “Through Rail North, local authorities have had unprecedented input into this process and the franchises beginning in 2016 will result in much-needed improvements to modernise our rail system.

“This investment will result in more frequent, higher capacity, services between key locations, modern rolling stock with pacer trains being withdrawn by 2020, and better facilities at a number of stations.”

But unions representing 5,100 staff said it could mean cuts to staff numbers and safety for passengers.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said the announcement “opens the door to years of cuts to staff and safety.”