NORTHERN Rail has announced it has won the contract to run trains going through Northwich until February 2016.

The deal, announced by Rail Minister Stephen Hammond, marks the start of the transformation of rail services across the north, and will help support the government’s £600 million of investment in the region.

Alex Hynes, managing director for Northern Rail, welcomed the news following the signing of the new agreement with shareholders Serco and Abellio.

Northern has committed to a range of improvements as part of the agreement which includes improving ticket purchase facilities, extending the availability of advanced tickets, investing in better passenger information by, for example, installing customer information display screens at a further 100 stations, and funding new environmental initiatives.

During the new agreement period Northern will continue to work with the Department for Transport on proposals to deliver a fleet of electric trains into the north west, which would see existing diesel stock released to strengthen other services.

Mr Hynes said: “The next 22 months is about being more efficient and more effective, seeking and delivering new ways of working.

“That doesn’t mean taking short cuts or risks. It’s about achieving a balance: delivering a safe and improved service in a new way: doing more with less.

“We’re already delivering enhancements across our network; our services are more punctual and reliable, and the commitment is there to drive further efficiency with our partners.

“Crucially today’s announcement gives us the opportunity to start consulting with all our stakeholders on the requirements for creating a step change in rail services for the North under the next long term franchise.”

Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: “Rail travel across the North will be transformed over the next five years through huge levels of government investment.

“However, I am well aware that there is a need for action now. So I have insisted on even tougher punctuality, reliability and passenger satisfaction targets for Northern Rail.

“We will also continue to work closely with the operator to deliver additional electric trains which will strengthen services across the network.”

The new agreement will run until February 2016 when a new long-term franchise will be let.

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