Latest Rail News

01.12.05

First Group wins Greater Western Franchise

The Department for Transport has announced that First Group has been awarded the contract to run the Greater Western Franchise from 1st April.

The Greater Western Franchise will include routes on the national rail network currently operated by First Great Western, First Great Western Link and Wessex Trains.

First Group has also committed to providing the overnight sleeper between London and Penzance; the London-Cardiff off-peak half-hourly service; the current level of off-peak mainline stops at Slough; six trains per weekday on the Oxford-Bicester line, with realistically timed peak hour services; faster London-Cheltenham journey times; the same number of off-peak Didcot calls as now; and a direct daily Frome-London return service.

In the early years of the franchise, over £200 million will be invested. The high speed fleet will be completely redesigned, which together with the new timetable, should increase capacity on trains between London and Reading at peak times. There will be improvements to over 20 stations. The a programme of station improvements includes better customer information systems, the installation of CCTV and 1700 new car parking spaces at stations. Automatic ticket gates will be installed and more revenue protection staff and community support officers for additional passenger security. There will be a committed annual budget for Community Rail and First Group has agreed to liaise and co-operate with Community Rail partners to develop and promote partnerships. Track improvements will be carried out on lines between London and Reading to enable faster journeys. It is hoped that by 2012 nine out of ten trains will run on time.

Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, explained the benefits of the contract, “This will raise the quality of passenger journeys and ensure that services and facilities are in place where they are most needed – now and in the future.”

The franchise contract is for ten years, with the final three years dependent on service performance achieving preset targets.

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