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Rail service vow after trains move

Rail passengers in northern England have been promised improved services even though some of the area's trains are being transferred south.

Under a leasing agreement, nine trains being used on TransPennine Express (TPE) routes will move to the Chiltern franchise this spring.

But Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced today that agreement had been reached to secure additional trains for the TPE and Northern franchise areas and that existing rail services will be maintained from May.

There will also be more carriages and more seats, but there will be some changes to the existing timetable, with the 6.18am Manchester Airport to Barrow-in-Furness service no longer running.

Mr McLoughlin said: "Rail services across the North are vital for passengers and for the economy. By helping people access work and leisure more easily, we are securing long-term economic growth across the region.

"That is why we have worked hard with Northern and TPE to ensure we expand services and enhance passenger journeys."

The Campaign For Better Transport's public transport campaigner Martin Abrams said: "We welcome this announcement. This will provide short term relief for passengers using overcrowded trains.

"The Government now needs to use the refranchising of Northern Rail and TPE to guarantee investment better rail services right across the region, including a clear timetable for replacing the outdated Pacer trains."

The RMT transport union has been running a campaign to highlight its concerns about northern England rail services.

Commenting on today's announcement, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "A gain this is more spin over substance from the Government but it shows clearly that they are having to respond to the ongoing RMT campaign.

"Ministers are terrified about the fact that the new May railways timetable will come in days before the general election and today's move is a thinly disguised attempt to deflect from the truth that when that new timetable comes in, many services in the north will lose modern trains which will be sent to the south."

He went on: "T he Government cannot be offering any meaningful improvement in capacity in services when its franchise proposals mean the loss of thousands of frontline rail staff making it impossible to deliver a safe and efficient service for passengers. Our campaign will continue. "

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