The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded new contracts to operators for the Northern Rail and TransPennine Express franchises to offer improved rail services in the north of England and Scotland.

From 1 April next year, Arriva Rail North has been selected to operate the next Northern Rail franchise for 25 years, while First Trans Pennine Express will run the TransPennine Express franchise.

Both the franchises will be jointly managed from Leeds by the DfT and Rail North consortium, which represents 29 local authorities across the north of England, as part of the government’s commitment to regional devolution.

"As a one-nation government, we are committed to closing the economic gap between north and south."

The two train operators will collectively oversee an investment of £1.2bn to improve rail services.

More than 500 new carriages will be introduced while the outdated and unpopular Pacer trains will be removed from service by 2019.

The new trains would have room for 40,000 extra passengers at the busiest times, and more than 2,000 extra services a week will be delivered across the north.

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By GlobalData

UK Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "We promised passengers in the north-east a world-class rail service that would make the Northern Powerhouse a reality.

"As a one-nation government, we are committed to closing the economic gap between north and south. This deal and the joint management of the franchises will bring the Northern Powerhouse to life."

Running the franchise until March 2023, First Trans Pennine Express is expected to bring in a new, direct Liverpool to Glasgow service with new electric trains, and additional services from Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh, including at weekends.

The operators will introduce 220 new carriages, equivalent to 44 trains, providing fast 125mph services across the network.

Free Wi-Fi will be offered on TransPennine Express services and stations by July 2018, and on Northern Rail services and 36 stations by December 2019.

Stations will be improved with a £55m investment.

Scope of work will include doubling the number of Manchester to Newcastle services, and running more daily services to Hull from Manchester and Leeds, both from December 2017.

As part of the TransPennine Express franchise, the operator will invest more than £400m in new rolling stock.

FirstGroup CEO Tim O’Toole said: "Our new TransPennine Express franchise will deliver faster and more frequent intercity train services between the north’s major towns and cities.

"Our plans include investment in new and refurbished trains on every part of the network, with millions more seats available, free Wi-Fi and simpler smart and mobile ticketing, allowing us to build on the success we have had over the past 11 years, in which we have more than doubled passenger journeys on the network."

The UK Government will receive £400m in premiums from First Trans Pennine Express over the life of the franchise, which was previously subsidised by the government.

Northern Rail is currently operating the Northern franchise.

The operator will invest £400m in 281 new air-conditioned carriages to be rolled out across the north.