The new franchise to run the main northern train network has been won by a consortium headed by First Group, the Strategic Rail Authority has announced.
The new franchise is due to start early next year
The Trans-Pennine Express route connects the cities of Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, York, Newcastle and Middlesbrough, with Liverpool and Manchester and is currently operated by Arriva Trains Northern.
First Group and its partner Keolis beat off competition from Connex to win the decision more than three years after the bidding started.
The firm is expected to invest £260m over the next eight years.
SRA chairman Richard Bowker said: "When we talk about Britain's railway, properly delivered, this is what we mean.
"This franchise will deliver better trains with better performance, improved services and more capacity - the things that matter to passengers."
A new fleet of 100mph trains, a new timetable, station upgrades, 200 new jobs and increased reliability have been promised by First Group.
The new eight year franchise will start in early 2004 with the option to extend the deal for a further five years.
Moir Lockhead, chief executive of First Group, said: "I am delighted that we have been awarded this franchise.
"I am confident that we can provide a high quality service that will contribute to the economic growth of the region and provide an attractive alternative to the car."
First Group currently operates the First Great Eastern, First Great Western and First North Western franchises.
Keolis is the largest private rail operator in France.