13. The Privatised Railway in Cumbria

In 1993 the then Conservative government passed a Railways Act which would end nearly 50 years of ownership and management by the state, latterly under the British Railways Board. The first step under the Act was to separate ownership and operation of fixed infrastructure under a new organisation which was to be called Railtrack, this being effected from 1st April 1994 and was floated on the stock market for private sale in 1996.

For the time being the BRB retained operational responsibility for passenger rail services: rail freight services were being sold separately to the private sector in 1996. Passenger services were divided between some 25 train operating companies (TOCs) as a basis for the new operating franchises for which bidders were then sought by the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (OPRAF). As for the trains themselves, the whole British Rail fleet of locomotives and carriages was divided up for sale to three newly created Rolling Stock Leasing Companies (ROSCOs).

The first passenger train operating franchise to be sold to the private sector was South West Trains (Stagecoach) and commenced operating from 4th February 1996. So far as Cumbria was concerned franchises commenced operations as follows:

    North East (MTL Trust Holdings) 2 March 1997
    North West (GW Holdings) 2 March 1997
    CrossCountry (Virgin Trains) 5 January 1997 for 15 years 3 months
    West Coast Trains (Virgin Trains) 9 March 1997 for 15 years
    Scotrail 31 March 1997

Franchise renewals after about seven years saw Barrow and Windermere services to Manchester Airport separated from local services on the Furness and Cumbrian Coast lines. The new franchise for these and other regional express services was awarded to a consortium of Keolis and First Group and has become known as First TransPennine Express. It took over these services from 1 February 2004 with other local services, and those on the Settle-Carlisle and Newcastle-Carlisle lines being taken up by the Northern Rail franchise a couple of months later, local operations on both east and west sides of the Pennines being merged into this one operation.

To be completed

For further reading see Bibliography

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25 October 2011 DM

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