Train journey times are set to be cut after a deal was announced for a £250m fleet of high-speed trains.
The new trains should be running in 2004
The deal is for 100mph trains for the new Trans-Pennine Express rail franchise, which serves stations across north of England.
The new trains will help reduce journey times by up to 10 minutes with a journey from Newcastle to Manchester Piccadilly expected to take 2 hours 37 minutes.
FirstGroup and French-owned transport group Keolis named Siemens as the preferred bidder for the £250m fleet, which is due in service two years after they take over the franchise in 2004.
FirstGroup chief executive Moir Lockhead said: "We want to hit the ground running and are making this announcement just days after we were selected as preferred bidders to run the franchise.
The group is taking over from current franchise operator Arriva.
"The sooner we order the trains the sooner they can enter service."
Keolis director Jean-Pierre Deghaye said: "Passengers will notice a big advance in comfort and reliability when the new trains enter service.
"This is a key part of our commitment to improve quality and attract more people to rail."
The new fleet will be specially designed for service in the Pennines.
The 100mph trains will be fitted with the Train Protection Warning System to prevent them passing signal signs set at danger.
Roy Wicks, chair of the Passenger Transport Executive Group, said: "It is good to see that so soon after the announcement of the preferred bidder an order has been placed for new rolling stock."
Among the stations served by the Trans Pennine Express franchise are Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Barrow-in-Furness, Windermere, Durham, Darlington, Leeds, Hull, York, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool.