Extra Voyagers in new CrossCountry contract

CrossCountry will augment its fleet with additional Voyagers, refurbish its fleets and introduce a new direct service between Cardiff and Edinburgh as part of a new National Rail Contract, agreed between the Department for Transport and Arriva Group.

The NRC will start on 15 October and will run for up to eight years, with a guaranteed core term of four years to 2027. Arriva has operated CrossCountry since November 2007, and following an initial long contract has operated services under a series of shorter deals, most recently a three-year Operating Contract Franchise Agreement which began in October 2020.

Following the withdrawal of its HSTs, CrossCountry is to take on seven additional Class 221s released by Avanti West Coast following the arrival of new Hitachi trains there, adding to the 58-strong fleet of Class 220s and Class 221s CrossCountry already operates. The last regular service run for an HST with CrossCountry was on 18 September from Plymouth to Leeds, with a farewell tour from Leeds to Swanage to follow on 26 September.

A full fleet refurbishment is planned for both the Voyagers and the 29 Class 170 Turbostars. Arriva says this will include fitting CCTV, automatic passenger counting equipment, new carpets and LED lighting, although it is understood the final scope of the refurbishment is yet to be agreed. Owner Beacon Rail is to appoint a contractor for the Voyager refurbishment, while CrossCountry has been working with Porterbrook to develop the scope of an upgrade for the ‘170s’.

Timetable enhancements are also planned, building on the May 2023 timetable, which included a step-up in CrossCountry services on long-distance routes. A new daily direct service between Cardiff and Edinburgh is to be introduced in December 2024, with the aim of strengthening connections across Britain. Also planned is the restoration of an hourly service to and from Stansted Airport, while CrossCountry is to study future opportunities for its regional routes operated by Class 170s.