A rail passenger group has welcomed news that Arriva has been awarded the ‘Cross Country’ rail franchise that covers almost the entire length of Britain.
The franchise, which had been operated by Virgin Trains since 1997, extends from Penzance to Aberdeen.
Arriva, which already runs rail services in Wales, says an extra 40 carriages will run on the network, while others will be refurbished.
It says this means 3000 more seats a day for passengers on the busiest parts of the network.
Arriva will run the franchise from November and have also promised a new web-based ticketing system from the end of 2009.
This will allow customers to reserve seats up to 10 minutes before their train leaves, print tickets at home, and receive and display tickets on mobile phones.
Passenger Focus, the independent rail consumer watchdog, welcomed the news.
Its manager Susan Tibbett said: ‘We surveyed 10,000 passengers about the proposals for this new franchise. The Department for Transport and Arriva have listened to the recommendations we put forward: at least 30 per cent more seating, extra luggage space and making it easier for passengers to change trains.
‘These planned improvements should make a big difference to passengers. But Arriva will have to work hard to boost the service standards set by Virgin.’
She added: ‘Birmingham New Street station is core to this franchise. Planned investment at this station is still seeking funding. Franchise plans rely on passengers being encouraged to change at other stations to manage demand at Birmingham New Street. We welcome the extra help set out to make it easier for passengers to change trains but are concerned that there is no mention of investment at other stations.’