[N]orthern is to explore new solutions to provide enhanced services for customers on the Lakes Line.
The largest train operator outside of London is working on proposals to develop innovative solutions following the news that the line is not to be electrified.
From May 2018 the route between Oxenholme and Windermere will see the introduction of ‘Flex trains’. These innovative units will be able to operate on both electrified and non-electrified lines meaning customers will be able to travel seamlessly between the Lake District and Manchester Airport without changing trains.
Sharon Keith, Regional Director, at Northern said: “The ‘Flex trains’, which will be redesignated as class 769s, are currently being converted from existing class 319s and are planned to be introduced to the network from May 2018. These will ensure our customers in the Lake District are able to benefit from the electrified route south of the national park and travel direct to Windermere – all on a fully refurbished dual fuel train.
“From December 2019 we will look to introduce our brand new trains, currently being constructed by CAF, and the Lakes Line will reap the benefit of this programme with the introduction of new diesel powered trains which will feature, as standard, air conditioning, free wifi, and plug sockets throughout.
“The proposed introduction of the Flex 769s, together with the brand new trains, will provide the Lakes Line with an excellent service up to 2019 and beyond. Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and we are committed to providing them with the best services, on the best trains possible.”
Northern has also been set the challenge of developing proposals for further new trains which run on alternative fuel sources. The aim is to produce new trains which could use environmentally friendly fuel sources to operate between Oxenholme and Windermere, but which would also be able to run on the electrified routes south of the national park.
Sharon added: “We welcome the opportunity to bring more innovation and modern technology to our customers in the Lake District.
“Through our current programme of modernisation we are already introducing 98 new diesel and electric trains, as well as refurbishing the remainder of our fleet and upgrading many of the facilities at our stations.
“We are also investing in digital technology to keep our customers informed and to open up new ways of purchasing tickets and paying for travel.
“This ongoing partnership with Department for Transport and Rail North will allow us to innovate further and help develop technologies which may not only enhance the environment in Cumbria, but could also be used as a blueprint for routes further afield.”