Arriva holds onto the Cross Country rail franchise in "milestone" award by Department for Transport

Oliver Gill
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Arriva is a subsidiary of German transport giant Deutsche Bahn (Source: Getty)

Arriva has won a three year contract extension to run the Cross Country rail franchise in a deal with the Department for Transport worth £163m.

The Deutsche Bahn-owned company has run the franchise since 2007 and revealed a raft of new initiatives it intends to implement as part of the deal that starts in October. These included promising to waive a £10 "change of travel" charge by January 2017 and to deliver 39,000 extra seats by December 2017.

"Today is a key milestone in giving passengers better journeys right across the Cross Country network," said Rail Minister Paul Maynard, whose department will pay £20m towards modernising trains across the franchise.

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Arriva UK trains managing director Chris Burchell hailed the "significant progress" the company had made on the network since 2007.

Meanwhile the managing director of Arriva Cross Country, Andy Cooper, said that customers had a key role to play in helping to develop the network.

"We will also be looking to our customers for feedback on how we can deliver them great journeys," he said.

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Unions lamented the news that the a foreign owned company would be running the network and said it was a "public scandal" that a UK state-owned company was not considered.

"Instead the German state owned railways, Deutsche Bahn will continue to reap profits at the expense of the long suffering Cross Country passengers," said the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union's Mick Cash.

The RMT claimed that taxpayers could have saved millions through handing ownership back to a UK-owned company.

And Cash also warned about handing control of the network to a company whose ultimate parent is German.

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"There is more corporate welfare from the UK to the German state to the tune of £30 million and all the risks associated w‎ith handing our railways to Deutsche Bahn when the German banking system is on the ropes," he said.

The Cross Country network stretches down the spine of the country and diagonally across – from Aberdeen to Penzance, and from Stansted to Cardiff. It covers around 1,500 route miles and calls at over 100 stations.

Other promises as part of the deal included £1m of commitments to community rail partnerships and ensuring free wifi and improved 4G reception by April 2018.