Northern Rail will continue to operate regional rail services across the North of England until February 2016.

A decision on the franchise, which includes services on the Airedale, Calderdale and Wharfedale lines, was reached last week after negotiations with the Department of Transport (DfT).

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.

Alex Hynes, managing director for Northern Rail, has welcomed the news following the signing of the new Direct Award agreement with shareholders Serco and Abellio.

“The next 22 months is about being more efficient and more effective, seeking and delivering new ways of working,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean taking short cuts or risks. It’s about achieving a balance – delivering a safe and improved service in a new way, doing more with less.

“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.”

David Stretch, Serco’s managing director for Transport Services, said: “Serco has a strong track record of providing high quality rail services in the UK and internationally.

“We are delighted that the strong performance of our partnership with Abellio, and focus on doing the right thing for our passengers, has been recognised with the award of this new contract. “This is down to the commitment of our team at Northern Rail who work tirelessly to provide an excellent standard of service across the North of England.”

Dominic Booth, Abellio UK’s Managing Director, added: “We’ve been negotiating very hard with the Department for Transport to secure the best outcome for Northern’s passengers.

“With our Joint Venture partner we will now be working hard with the Northern Rail team to bring the benefits of the extension to passengers safely, quickly and efficiently.”