The current East Midlands Trains franchise is to be extended until August 2019 while the government carries out a public consultation on what rail passengers want from the next franchise.
The Department for Transport last year extended the East Midlands Trains franchise, which has been operated by Stagecoach Group since 2007, to March 2018.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling has now decided to further extend the current franchise until August 2019.
The East Midlands franchise operates services from St Pancras in London to Sheffield and also between Liverpool and Norwich. It offers 470 services a week and provides 26 million passenger journeys per year.
The DFT has also started a public consultation including public meetings at nine cities on the East Midlands network from August 30 to September 27.
Grayling said: “People want faster, long distance rail services with more seats and simpler tickets. They also want better local services. As reflected in the government’s Midlands Engine strategy, transport and connectivity are essential to sustaining and building on this success.
“The award of a new East Midlands franchise gives us the opportunity to set the conditions for achieving this and for ensuring that the passenger remains firmly at the heart of decisions on services and investment.
“I want passengers to enjoy more space and comfort, more frequent and better communication with the operator and a reliable level of performance that delivers value for money.”
As part of the new franchise timetable the government will issue tender invitations to bidders in April 2018 and plans to award the new contract in the spring of 2019.
Three bidders for the East Midlands franchise were originally shortlisted earlier this year: Arriva Rail, First Trenitalia and Stagecoach. But now other companies can join the competition for the new franchise starting in August 2019.
As part of the new franchise, the DFT wants to reduce journey times on long-distance inter-city services by up to 20 minutes and relieve overcrowding on London services by adding 1,000 extra seats per hour during peak periods.