THE North should be given new trains, better stations and a zoned fare system to address the North-South divide, a new report claims.

Experts say the Government needs to invest heavily in rail infrastructure if it is serious about creating a Northern powerhouse.

The report, by not-for-profit rail research company Greengauge 21, urges ministers to enshrine major improvements in new franchise agreements for the Northern Rail and TransPennine Express (TPE) contracts. These include:

- The launch of new regional express rail network for the North and Midlands

- Simplified fares, smart ticketing and a zonal fares structure across the region

- Replacement of all Pacer trains and further electrification

The study calls for a series of "stepping stone" rail infrastructure improvements to tackle the North-South divide.

The report will be launched to rail experts and franchise bidders this Wednesday at a seminar on the future of the region's rail network at the National Railway Museum in York.

The event has been organised by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).

Stephen Joseph, CBT chief executive, said northern cities had seen major regeneration initiatives recently and he was pleased to hear politicians from different parties voice their support for a rail network that made the most of those economic opportunities.

However, he added: "In order for the rhetoric to become reality, the Government and the bidders who win these two key franchises simply must take on board the recommendations of this report, which offers clear, practical steps that need to be taken to give people, businesses and the cities of the region the rail network they deserve.

"Another ‘minimum cost’ franchise, like the previous one, would be a disaster for northern cities."

Rail Minister Claire Perry, along with Northern Rail boss Alex Hynes, will be among those speaking at Wednesday's event.

Union bosses have this week welcomed comments from Mr Hynes that his company had no plans to get rid of guards and introduce a controversial driver only operation on its trains.

The Northern Echo has launched the Right Lines campaign to push for a better deal for the region from the Northern and TPE refranchising exercise.

The campaign calls on the Government to replace the aged Pacer trains as soon as possible.