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New direct rail services from Manchester airport to Warrington, Bradford and Halifax are promised as part of a £1.2 billion boost to rail connections across the north of England and Scotland.
This came as the government awarded the northern rail franchise to Arriva Rail North and the TransPennine Express franchise to First Trans Pennine Express.
More than 500 new carriages, the removal of the outdated Pacer trains, room for 40,000 extra passengers at the busiest times, and more than 2,000 extra services a week will be delivered, according to the Department for Transport.
Arriva Rail North will run the northern franchise from April 2016 until March 2025.
The operator will oversee the removal of unpopular Pacers trains by the end of 2019, and will spend £400 million in 281 new air-conditioned carriages – more than double the minimum required in the government’s invitation to tender.
Other improvements on the Northern network include the new Manchester airport links as more than 2,000 extra services a week are provided.
New direct journeys from Bradford to Wakefield, Sheffield, Nottingham, Liverpool and Hull; from Leeds to Chester and Bridlington; from Lincoln to Leeds are planned.
Improved ticketing, including mobile and print-at-home tickets, and discounted fares for jobseekers have been promised.
First Trans Pennine Express will operate services on the TransPennine Express franchise – which runs intercity services across the region and into Scotland – from April 2016 until March 2023.
The company will bring in 220 new carriages, equivalent to 44 trains and worth more than £400 million, providing fast 125mph services across the network.
New and additional services for Scotland are planned, including a direct Liverpool to Glasgow service from December 2018 with new electric trains and extended services beyond Newcastle to Edinburgh from December 2019.
Additional services from Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh are planned from December 2017.
The number of Manchester to Newcastle services will be doubled from December 2017 together with more daily services to Hull from Manchester and Leeds.
An extra 9,000 seats will be provided into Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and Newcastle to give an overall capacity boost of nearly 70% across the region during the morning peak period.
Transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said: “We promised passengers a world class rail service that would make the Northern Powerhouse a reality – and I’m delighted that we have found two operators that will deliver exactly that.
“Arriva Rail North and First Trans Pennine Express went far beyond our requirements with exciting, ambitious plans that will make a real difference to customers, and – coupled with our commitment to push ahead with electrifying the vital trans-pennine route – will help the region realise its full economic potential, ensuring it has a modern 21st century transport system.”
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