PASSENGERS have been promised improved services under an extension of a rail franchise covering services across the north.
Under the deal, Northern Rail Ltd will carry on running trains across the north of England until February 2016.
Announcing the extended franchise today, rail minister Stephen Hammond said Northern Rail would have to meet tough new targets for punctuality, reliability and passenger satisfaction.
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The deal comes at a time when investment in rail in the north is set to see a significant amount of the network electrified, meaning improved services between cities including Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, and Sheffield.
Mr 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."
Northern Rail operates services across Tyne & Wear, Tees Valley and County Durham.
The Department for Transport and Northern Rail are continuing to work on proposals to deliver a fleet of electric trains for the franchise, which would see existing diesel stock released to strengthen other services during the deal.
The operator will provide new passenger information screens at a further 100 stations and will work to make buying tickets more convenient.
When the new agreement expires in February 2016, a new long-term franchise will be let.