Thousands of passengers will benefit from improvements on CrossCountry trains including over 20,000 extra seats a week, following £2.5 million invested by the government, the Rail Minister has announced.
Passengers travelling between Cardiff and Birmingham, Leicester and Nottingham will start to see longer trains on some services from May 2020 delivering more than 5,000 more seats each week. A further 15,000 seats per week are planned to be in place from mid-2021.
The £2.5 million new government funding was agreed by the DfT and CrossCountry to help tackle overcrowding. Work is underway on further improvements in the years to come when more rolling stock will be available, especially for longer distance routes that Cross Country serves.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:
“Investing in transport is essential to levelling up the country, as we look to modernise our rail network and restructure the industry to put passengers at the heart of the railway.
“But we want to fund benefits to address pressing needs and improve journeys for passengers in the short-term, as well as in the future.
“More seats mean more people can travel, increasing access to opportunities and better connecting our regions.”
Tom Joyner, CrossCountry’s Managing Director, said:
“We are delighted to now be able to get on and deliver these benefits for our customers, with improvements to the journey experience and three new community groups to bring our train services closer to the places we serve.
“Most importantly, many of our trains have become increasingly busy as more and more people choose rail for their journeys.
“This delivers the biggest increase in seats for our services in more than 13 years, helping customers enjoy a relaxing and comfortable journey every day. These improvements will deliver an immediate boost for rail users in the Midlands, with the promise of even more to come on other routes in the near future.”
Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart, said:
“This announcement forms part of our ongoing investment in Wales’ railway infrastructure by providing visible and practical improvements to passenger services.
“It is essential for Wales to have modern, reliable transport links in order enable more people to get into employment, help grow our economy and encourage a shift towards greener methods of transport.”
Investment will also be made to expand CrossCountry’s seat reservation service to allow passengers to reserve a seat on most services to ensure they can travel in comfort for their journey, as well as to reserve a space for their bike. The investment will also improve communication and signage, pointing to places where luggage can be stored during a journey, both when travelling and as they board the train.
The funding from government follows an agreement to extend the CrossCountry franchise last summer to October 2020.