The UK Government has signed an agreement under which the Arriva Cross Country (AXC) franchise will continue to run services until October 2019.
Under the latest deal, AXC will continue to operate services stretching from Aberdeen to Penzance, Bournemouth to Manchester, and from Stansted to Cardiff.
UK Rail Minister Paul Maynard said: “We are making the biggest investment in the railways since the Victorian era and today (29 September 2016) is a key milestone in giving passengers better journeys right across the Cross Country network.
“The franchise, which spans parts of England, Scotland and Wales, serves both commuters and long distance passengers and these benefits from Arriva Cross Country will deliver extra and smoother journeys for customers using these services.”
Under the new deal, passengers will have access to 39,000 more seats at peak times along the Edinburgh to Plymouth route through Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol by December 2017.
Journey times from Birmingham to Manchester will be reduced, and 24/7 customer service and free Wi-Fi will be available by April 2018.
The government will invest £20m in more modern trains.
Other benefits include extra services calling at Morpeth, more punctual and reliable trains, and waiving of the £10 ‘change of travel’ fee for advance tickets from January.
As part of the agreement, £340,000 of funding will be provided for community rail partnerships across the Cross Country network every year.
Arriva Cross Country managing director Andy Cooper said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to deliver even more for our customers over the next three years through this new agreement.”
AXC will pay a premium of £163m to the government to operate the franchise from this month until October 2019.
Image: The new deal will see reduction in journey times from Birmingham to Manchester. Photo: courtesy of the UK Government.