Franchise awards to bring better quality rail services to the Liverpool City Region

Posted 9th December 2015
7 minutes read
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People travelling to and from the Liverpool City Region, and within it, are set to benefit from more and better quality rail services following the announcement of the new Northern and TransPennine Express franchise awards today (Wednesday 9th December).

The most notable change is the introduction of a direct service – three services a day – between Liverpool Lime Street and Glasgow, avoiding the need for travellers to change at Wigan or Preston.

Meanwhile, connections between the Northern cities will be more frequent and there will be improved services between Southport and Manchester, including more evening services.

While the franchises have been awarded by DfT, for the first time the specifications for bidders to meet were drawn up jointly by DfT and Rail North – a consortium of the 29 transport authority areas in the North, including Merseytravel – to ensure that they best reflect local need and support economic growth.

A key factor for Merseytravel was ensuring that people using the City line, such as those living in places like St Helens, Huyton and Newton-le-Willows benefit from similar service standards to those who have access to the Merseyrail network, including improved evening and Sunday services.

Key headlines (by 2019):

  • Direct services to Scotland. A new direct TransPennine Express service –  three services a day – from Lime St to Glasgow,  removing the need to change at Preston or Wigan. In addition, an hourly direct TransPennine Express service to Edinburgh (via Newcastle). There will be St Helens stops en route.
  • Improved connections between the Northern cities, with a commitment to four fast services an hour (TransPennine Express & Northern)  between Lime Street and Manchester and two per hour between Liverpool, Leeds and York (TransPennine Express), as well as more services to Preston (Northern & TransPennine Express)
  • Improved evening and Sunday services on the City Line, benefitting people living in places such as in Huyton and St Helens.
  • Improved services between Southport and Manchester, including more evening services. A new hourly (Northern) service from Southport right through to Leeds or Bradford via Manchester, opening up the town to a new market, helping support and grow the economy.
  • An early Northern service from Lime St to Manchester Airport (arriving no later than 0445)
  • Daily services to Manchester Airport via both Newton-le-Willows and Warrington Central.
  • Over 500 new-build carriages will be introduced across both franchises, across the North, with Pacer units withdrawn by 2020.
  • Longer trains and more frequent services will mean commuters benefit from increased capacity.


Said Cllr Liam Robinson, Chair of Merseytravel and Chair of the Rail North:

“This is a big step forward , not only in better connecting the Liverpool City Region to other cities to make the most of employment and leisure opportunities to support economic growth,  but also in driving up standards for people who live locally.

“I have always been conscious that the City Region’s rail network is in two halves and the standards people enjoy can vary greatly depending on postcode.  This isn’t acceptable.

“The Merseyrail network is managed locally and scores consistently highly for reliability and customer satisfaction, while the City Line is part of the national rail network and standards lag behind.

“Being part of Rail North has given us the opportunity to influence the franchising process beyond a ‘like for like’ to better tailor it to support the Liverpool City Region’s transport and growth ambitions and improve consistency and standards across the board.”

Robert Hough, Chair of Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership said on behalf of the Linking Liverpool campaign, “This is excellent news for the people and businesses of Liverpool City Region and is a key milestone in realising our wider transport connectivity ambitions. It shows what we can achieve when all partners in the city region work together to achieve a common goal and the importance of the business community coming together in our Linking Liverpool campaign.

“We will now continue to campaign working with Transport for the North and the Government for the very best transport connectivity for the city region.”

People will benefit from some additions and changes to service from December 2017 when the timetable changes, which have to be scheduled well in advance and agreed nationally, will first be able to reflect the services outlined in the successful bids.


It is likely to be December 2019 before services that require new rolling stock to operate them will be added to the timetables.