Latest Rail News

03.10.13

First Great Western extension agreed until 2015

The First Greater Western (FGW) franchise will be extended until September 2015, the DfT has announced. Trains will continue to operate between London Paddington, the Cotswolds, South Wales and the south west. 

The new 23-month franchise is part of the Government’s new rail franchising schedule set out earlier this year. A further contract will be negotiated before a long-term franchise is let. 

The franchise will include two additional sleeper carriages for services between London and Cornwall, an agreement to fit more trains with free wireless internet, more car parking spaces at Bristol Parkway station by 2014, and £4.6m investment for upgrades through the National Station Improvement Programme (NSIP). 

Labour and rail professionals have questioned the lack of figures included in the DfT’s announcement, and called for the publication of the financial terms of the franchise agreement. 

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “The Great Western franchise provides a vital service for thousands of passengers every day and under this deal they will see real benefits. 

“For communities like Devon and Cornwall the train is a life-line bringing in business and helping secure the leisure industry the community relies upon. This agreement will provide additional sleeper carriages between London and Cornwall securing the future of a key service once under threat. 

“We have also secured a commitment to deliver greater WiFi coverage to improve the experience of long distance journeys for passengers. But I am also determined that we see further improvements during the lifetime of this contract; more standard class and fewer first class seats on key services and the delivery of more electric trains for the Thames Valley. 

“This agreement provides further proof that the Government’s new franchising schedule is on track, delivering value for money for the tax-payer and supporting the ongoing multi-billion pound investment programme in our railways.” 

But Labour’s transport team tweeted: “Why won't @transportgovuk say what First will pay for Great Western extension? Last two franchise extensions left taxpayers down £92 million.” 

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com 

Image c. First Group

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