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What is happening now?

In December 2015 the Department for Transport (DfT) awarded the TransPennine Express franchise to First. The new contract began on 1 April 2016, under the name TransPennine Express (TPE), and will run for seven years.


Between February 2004  and March 2016 these services were operated by First TransPennine Express, owned jointly by First and Keolis. In June 2014 the DfT opened a competition to find an operator from 2016. First, Keolis/Go Ahead and Stagecoach were the shortlisted bidders.

Our role in the franchising process

In 2012 we commissioned qualitative research to understand passenger views about Northern and TransPennine Express services. We used this and other research, including the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS), to inform our discussions with the DfT about passenger needs from the franchise. We also used it in our response to the TransPennine Express and Northern franchise consultation published in August 2014.

We worked with DfT and Rail North on the development of a service-specification regime that places passenger interests at its heart and made proposals for an enhanced role and targets for the NRPS in the new franchise.

We provided advice to the DfT on the bidders’ delivery plans for the Customer Experience elements of the tenders. Having held discussions with all the shortlisted bidders during their bid development, we continued working with First on their policies and plans as they mobilised for the franchise.

Our ongoing work

Now the new franchise is in operation we continue to use our rail research to ensure that it has passenger priorities at its heart. Key to this are the NRPS results that are presented and discussed with TPE, highlighting areas that need improvement. We also hold meetings to discuss performance, both on a regular and proactive basis and to react to any poor performance.

We continue our statutory role in helping passengers with their unresolved rail complaints. Where a passenger has been unable to resolve their complaint directly with TPE we work with them to achieve a better outcome for the passenger. We use the information from these ‘appeal’ complaints to help TPE understand the root causes of unresolved complaints and continuously improve the customer service they provide.

To view our National Rail Passenger Survey reports or to access these and our appeal complaints data through our Data Explorer tool, please click on the links below:

NRPS                                                                            Data explorer                          

Transport Focus research and publications

December 2015 Transport Focus response to Northern and TransPennine award announcement
August  2014 Passenger Focus response to the TransPennine Express and Northern franchise consultation
May 2014 Passenger Focus presentation to potential bidders for the TransPennine Express franchise
December 2012 Research into passenger views of Northern and TransPennine Express rail franchises
November 2012 Breakdown of data, from research conducted within the TransPennine Express area

Click here for key Department of Transport publications

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