CROSSCOUNTRY IS to increase capacity on its services, starting in May 2020, following £2.5 million of new government funding.

Set to receive centre vehicles: a brace of two-car Class 170s call at the new station at Worcestershire Parkway on the station’s opening day, 23 February 2020, with a Cardiff to Birmingham CrossCountry service.
Steve Widdowson

The first increase will be in May 2020 on CrossCountry’s Turbostar routes linking Birmingham to Nottingham, Leicester and Cardiff. A change in the maintenance arrangements with West Midlands Trains for CrossCountry’s Class 170s will allow more units to be in service, leading to the provision of an additional 5,000 seats per week.

In December 2020, subject to agreement with DfT, CrossCountry plans to utilise additional HSTs to enable longer trains to operate some services on Mondays to Thursdays on routes from Scotland, the North East and Manchester to the South West and the South Coast. The operator has five HSTs, which are currently utilised most intensively on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. To enable the increase, two additional power cars will join CrossCountry’s fleet, with Voyagers released by use of HSTs allowing other trains to be lengthened.

A further uplift in May 2021 will follow on the Turbostar routes. CrossCountry’s mixed fleet of two-car and three-car ‘170s’ will be bolstered by the addition of six centre vehicles; these are being displaced from the current West Midlands Trains fleet, which will be transferring to East Midlands Railway but as two-car sets, leaving the centre vehicles spare. The Department for Transport says the increase of 15,000 seats per week will include services to and from Cambridge and Stansted Airport.

DfT says work is underway on further improvements when more rolling stock is available, especially on longer-distance routes. This is likely to involve the transfer of Class 221s displaced from Avanti West Coast or Class 222s from East Midlands Railway.

Also promised as part of the investment is expansion of CrossCountry’s seat reservation service and cycle reservations, as well as improved signage to aid luggage storage. Community Rail Partnerships for Worcestershire, the Heart of England and Bolton will also receive financial support.

Arriva’s current CrossCountry franchise runs until October 2020; the company has operated the franchise since 2007. Negotiations are underway regarding a further direct award franchise, which is thought likely to be for two years with the option of a further two-year extension.