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Train operators shortlisted for rail franchises

Six train operators have been shortlisted for two franchises covering the North of England.

The Government has promised a 'a world-class rail network' for passengers, but added that the franchise bidders would need to improve customer service and passenger satisfaction on the two networks.

The franchises connect passengers travelling into and between Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle, and onwards to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Those competing for the Northern franchise are Abellio, which is currently running Northern, Arriva and Govia. The three shortlisted for TransPennine Express (TPE) are FirstGroup, Keolis and Stagecoach. FirstGroup and Keolis currently operate TPE in a joint venture.

The Campaign for Better Transport and the RMT transport union have expressed concern that rail services in northern England could be cut.

The Government said bidders will be expected to show how they will make the most of the Government's £1bn investment programme for the rail network in the North of England, which will provide faster and more reliable journeys, more capacity, better trains and improved connections for passengers across the region.

"Building a railway that is fit for the 21st century is a vital part of our long-term economic plan, connecting businesses and communities, generating jobs and boosting growth, and we need strong private sector partners to help us achieve this ambition."

– Rail Minister Claire Perry

Hartlepool nuclear plant shut down for safety tests

Hartlepool's nuclear power station has been shut down and will remain closed for an estimated eight weeks while safety tests are carried out, after a defect was found at a similar plant in Lancashire.

Hartlepool nuclear power station normally generates enough electricity for two million homes

EDF Energy, which runs both plants, said the tests were a precaution and no problems had been found so far with the plant in Hartlepool. Staff will continue to go into work but no electricity will be generated while the plant is shut down.

A defect was discovered in a boiler unit at the company's plant in Heysham, Lancashire, which has the same design at the 30-year-old power station in Hartlepool.

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Wi-Fi tractors keep fans connected at Tour de France

Tractors are being given a hi-tech makeover so they can create Wi-Fi hotspots for cycling fans heading to watch the Tour de France.

The tractors, which have newly-fitted receivers, will keep Tour de France fans connected. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees
The Tour de France, the world’s largest annual sporting event, arrives in Yorkshire on Saturday 5th July. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees
The Tour de France, the world’s largest annual sporting event, arrives in Yorkshire on Saturday 5th July. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

They will be parked up in four of the busiest sections of the Yorkshire route and will provide a free Wi-Fi service from newly-fitted receivers.

The project is a collaboration between the Welcome to Yorkshire tourism agency and the National Union of Farmers. The tractors will feature in Hawes, Grassington, High Bradfield and Holme.

The Tour de France, the world’s largest annual sporting event, arrives in Yorkshire on Saturday 5th July.

Clegg and Cable open new aerospace plant

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable open aerospace plant on Wearside Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The Deputy Prime Minister and Business Secretary are on Wearside to open a £100 million aerospace factory.

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable met with engineers at Rolls-Royce in Washington, which will make engine parts for aircraft.

It is hoped the new plant will safeguard hundreds of manufacturing jobs.

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Monkey paralysis research: How it works

Researchers at Newcastle University, working with macaque monkeys, have shown that by connecting the brain to a computer and then the computer to the spinal cord, it is possible to restore movement.

They say the discovery opens up the possibility of new treatments within the next few years which could help stroke victims or people with spinal cord injuries regain some movement in their arms and hands.

The team trained macaque monkeys to pull a handle. The monkeys were temporarily paralysed, using a drug that wore off after two hours. The monkeys had no movement in their hands. But when the stimulation circuit was switched on the monkey could pull the handle.

Paralysis breakthrough: What the experts say

For the first time scientists have been able to restore the ability to grasp with a paralysed hand using spinal cord stimulation. There is currently no cure for upper limb paralysis. This can be caused by a stroke or spinal injury.

Researchers at Newcastle University, working with macaque monkeys, have shown that by connecting the brain to a computer and then the computer to the spinal cord, it is possible to restore movement.

"Much of the technology we used for this is already being used separately in patients today, and has been proven to work. We just needed to bring it all together.

"I think within five years we could have an implant which is ready for people. And what is exciting about this technology is that it would not just be useful for people with spinal injuries but also people who have suffered from a stroke and have impaired movement due to that. There are some technical challenges which we have to overcome, as there is with any new technology, but we are making good progress."

– Dr Andrew Jackson, Research Fellow at Newcastle University

"Animal studies such as ours are necessary to demonstrate the feasibility and safety of procedures before they can be tried in human patients, to minimise risk and maximise chance of successful outcomes."

– Dr Jonas Zimmermann, now at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA

"Being able to restore dexterous hand movements to patients paralysed by stroke or spinal cord injury would be a huge improvement to their independence and quality of life. The Newcastle University team's research, which harnesses the intact portions of the nervous system and creates new artificial connections, is at the cutting edge of neuro and rehabilitation science. When used alone or in combination with other rehabilitation approaches, this technique could lead to significant improvements in hand function and transform the lives of paralysed patients."

– Dr John Williams, Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust

Monkey paralysis research could help 'devastating' conditions

Pioneering research at Newcastle University could eventually allow patients paralysed from the waist up the ability to use their hands.

The process involves redirecting electronic signals from the brain to the spinal cord through a computer.

Dr Andrew Jackson, Research Fellow at Newcastle University, explains the importance of the research.

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