A NEW rail operator has been awarded a contract to run Crewe railway services.

West Midlands Trains, a joint venture between Dutch firm Abellio and Japanese partners will take over the Hartford line in December after beating London Midland operators Govia for the contract.

The franchise covers routes London Euston to Crewe, and Liverpool to Birmingham, Winsford and Hartford.

Passengers have been promised new, longer trains with more seats and space as nearly £1 billion is invested in services on the network.

Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, said: “This is great news for our passengers using West Midlands services – with new trains, more space, more regular services and easier access for disabled people.

“We are improving the whole travelling experience with live train crowding information, compensation for people delayed by 15 minutes or more, smart ticketing and better value tickets for part-time workers.

“This shows we are delivering on our commitment to build a railway that works for everyone.”

Passengers have been promised free Wi-Fi on main line services by the end of 2019, improved access for those requiring extra assistance and compensation is services are delayed by more than 15 minutes.

Dominic Booth, Abellio UK managing director, said: “We are delighted to have been announced as preferred bidder for the West Midlands franchise, driving growth in one of the most exciting regions in the country.

“We will be investing nearly £1 billion into the network, delivering new trains, better stations and a whole host of other benefits for passengers.”

Govia had bid to continue running the West Midlands franchise but was unsuccessful.