A MULTI-million-pound deal to run train services through Huddersfield has been signed.
The Strategic Rail Authority has signed a franchise agreement with FGK, a consortium of First Group and Keolis, for the new TransPennine Express franchise.
The group will operate services on principal Inter-City routes across the North.
An order for new trains for use on the TransPennine services was also signed today.
The new franchise is planned to begin early next year. It will run for eight years, with the option to extend for up to a further five.
Improvements confirmed by the signing of the franchise, which incorporates a total private sector investment of around £260m, will include:
* The introduction of a new fleet of 100mph diesel multiple units. The new trains will be maintained at two new purpose-built depots in Manchester and York
* Upgrades to all 30 stations on the TransPennine Express routes, including up-to-the-minute information and improved security, toilet, ticketing and waiting facilities
* Two hundred extra jobs created in the North
* Introduction of a new timetable in December, 2004, which will deliver a regular hourly service pattern for longer periods of the day, together with some increases in frequency and reductions in journey times
* Schemes such as a new customer contact centre, phone links and combined train/bus tickets.
SRA chairman Richard Bowker said: "More than half of all journeys between Newcastle and Manchester, by all means of transport - including cars - are made by rail.
"The signing of the franchise, along with the contract to deliver new trains, is great news for passengers in the North," Mr Bowker added.
"The franchise will help to deliver better trains with better performance, improved services and more capacity - the things that matter to passengers."
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