Long-distance train operator CrossCountry has been awarded a new contract to continue running services for three more years.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it will take on the revenue and cost risk associated with the franchise, in line with emergency measures announced last month.

CrossCountry, owned by Arriva, has run trains through England, Scotland and Wales since 2007.

Its network stretches from Aberdeen to Penzance, and from Stansted Airport to Cardiff.

Under the new deal, capacity will be boosted by 20,000 seats per week, more drivers and on-board staff will be deployed, and technology to cut the environmental impact of operations will be trialled.

This includes powering trains using batteries instead of diesel when they enter and leave stations, to improve air quality.

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There will also be new measures to help passengers with disabilities, such as providing the option of reserving space for assistance dogs, and better staff training.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “This agreement ensures that vital train services will continue across the UK’s most extensive rail network, as the country continues to fight and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The deal announced today reaffirms our commitment to ending the complicated franchise system, and is focused on the best interests of passengers, delivering better services and helping create a new kind of railway.

“With a real focus on boosting capacity and seizing the opportunity to create more environmentally sustainable services, this new contract will benefit passengers in the long term, improving their experience when travelling on our railways.”

Arriva will be paid a performance-linked fee to run services.

CrossCountry managing director Tom Joyner said: “This is great news for our customers and stakeholders and recognises the importance of our continuing to deliver long-distance business and leisure services across England, Scotland and Wales.

“Our trains connect towns and cities, people and communities across Great Britain, and this will be essential as we rebuild our national and local economies.

“We will continue to focus on highlighting the benefits of rail travel and ensuring our customers can travel with confidence.”

David Brown, Managing Director for UK Trains, said:

“Today’s announcement is welcome news and brings much needed continuity for the communities and regions we serve and to our employees at a time of great uncertainty for the country.  Now that we have secured continuity, we must work on the future direction of rail reform to serve the changing travel patterns of our customers.

“The new contract is positive recognition of CrossCountry’s stewardship since 2007.  We will build on our record of innovation and investment and progress plans to introduce a range of improvements, including additional capacity for our customers.

“The critical question now is how we look to ‘build back better’ through an improved operating model with flexible ticketing solutions and a far simpler fares ​structure.  Our ability to connect towns and cities, people and communities will be essential as we rebuild our economies. 

“Arriva will play an active role, alongside Government, in the reform of our railways to create a more customer-focussed model which empowers train ​operators to be agile and continue to innovate. ​ A new public-private partnership is key to achieving this.”