THE shortlist of train firms bidding to run the region's rail services has been announced - prompting concerns about foreign ownership and corporate greed from MPs and unions.
Arriva Rail, Abellio Northern and Govia Northern are in the running to take on the Northern franchise, with First Trans Pennine Express, Keolis Go-Ahead and Stagecoach Trans Pennine Express Trains shortlisted for the TransPennine Express routes.
Bidders will be expected to show how they will make the most of the Government’s £1billion investment in the North's rail network, which aims to provide faster and more reliable journeys, more capacity, better trains and improved connections for passengers across the region.
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Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “The north is undergoing a real rail renaissance, and we will be asking these companies to come up with innovative and ambitious proposals that will ensure a truly world-class rail network for the region."
But Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, said it was a "huge blow" for local services that the selected bidders were almost 100 per cent foreign owned.
“This means that every pound handed over to the conductor on the train from Saltburn to Middlesbrough and Darlington will be going to boost the profits of companies not domiciled in the UK."
Transport union RMT claims the refranchising exercise will lead to service cuts, increased fares, the closure of ticket offices and the axing of staff.
Commenting on the shortlist, Mick Cash, RMT acting general secretary, described the operators as"the same old greedy companies looking to hitch yet another ride on the rail privatisation gravy train purely in the interests of private profit”.
One of the shortlisted companies, UK-based Stagecoach, said the TPE rail franchise was a key part of the North of England's infrastructure, supporting economic growth and connecting communities - and the company was delighted to have been shortlisted by the Department for Transport.
Officials say the new operators will be expected to work closely with Rail North, which represents the region’s local authorities, to ensure local rail users have more influence in how train services are run.
An announcement about the successful bidder is expected in autumn 2015, with the contract expected to start in February 2016.
The franchise is expected to run for up to nine years.