NORTHERN Rail has announced today it will continue to operate rail services across the north of England until February 2016 following successful negotiations with the Department for Transport (DfT) Alex Hynes, Managing Director for Northern Rail, which runs services on the Settle to Carlisle and Barrow to Carlisle Lines, welcomed the news following the signing of the new Direct Award 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 Direct Award period Northern will continue to work with the DfT 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.

“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.”

Northern has seen a 47 per cent growth in passenger numbers since the start of its franchise in 2004 with 94 million journeys made last year.