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The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded a contract to Northern Rail to operate rail services across the north of England.

Northern Rail will be offered with £38bn to maintain and expand the railways over the next five years, and action to cap fares at inflation, under the contract that will back the government’s £600m investment in the region.

UK Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: "Rail travel across the north will be transformed over the next five years through huge levels of government investment.

"We will also continue to work closely with the operator to deliver additional electric trains which will strengthen services across the network."

Improvements to be carried out under the contract include enhancing ticket purchase facilities, extending the availability of advanced tickets, installing customer information display screens at a further 100 stations, and funding new environmental initiatives.

"We will also continue to work closely with the operator to deliver additional electric trains."

Northern Rail managing director Alex Hynes said: "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."

The operator will continue to work with DfT on plans to deliver a fleet of electric trains into the North West.

As part of the contract, Northern Rail has signed a 22-month interim franchise agreement with Serco Group and its 50:50 joint venture partner AbelIio for operation of the services on behalf of the DfT until February 2016.

Image: Northern Rail Ltd. Photo: courtesy of .gov.uk/DOT.