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First MTR takes charge of new South Western franchise

South Western Railway (SWR) has this week started work operating services in London and the south of England on the new South Western franchise.

Earlier this year, the franchise was awarded to the joint venture between First Group and Hong Kong-based MTR, First MTR, who will take over from South West Trains, who had previously run services in the region.

As part of the new franchise, passengers can also look forward to a £1.2bn investment to run over seven years, and will see a number of improvements to services.

By December 2020, the SWR mainland fleet will see the addition of 92 new Aventra trains, and the rest of its trains will be refurbished and refreshed, leading to a capacity boost of 52,000 seats.

SWR is also aiming to add more services and quicker journeys, as well as inject £90m into investing in station improvements and will also support local communities by providing greater connectivity.

“Together with our partners MTR, we will connect millions of customers every week, while investing to improve the network now and in the future,” said Tim O’Toole, FirstGroup chief executive officer.

“Our experienced leadership team, working alongside thousands of our dedicated SWR colleagues, will deliver the tangible improvements that customers and stakeholders told us they want.”

And Jeremy Long, chief executive officer for European Business at MTR, assured passengers that the company had a long track record of improving passengers’ journeys around the world and a strong reputation for efficiency, operating performance and quality of delivery.

“Together with FirstGroup we will bring this to bear for passengers in London and the south west, and help deliver a major programme of upgrades across the South Western network,” he added.

Finally, Andy Mellors, managing director of SWR, thanked the previous franchise operator for doing a great job during the Waterloo and South West upgrade programme work, going on to say that he knew it had been a challenging few weeks for customers traveling in the area. 

“I’d like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding during this time. The outcome of this improvement work will deliver the infrastructure needed to support the increased capacity plans we need for the future.”

The franchise changing over also follows First MTR agreeing to fare caps on the London to Exeter line after the Competition and Markets Authority raised concern about a lack of competition on the route.

Top Image: a South West Trains Class 159 diesel on the West of England Main Line in south Somerset. c. Joe Dunckley

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J, Leicester   22/08/2017 at 10:34

It begins... I can only hope that MTR are capable of keeping First's track-record, which is patchy at best, in check. Say what you want about Stagecoach, but I have always found them to at least be relatively competent in their ownership of the SWT franchise. I'm apprehensive about this acquisition, led by a company rightly chastised for their terrible record in the south west.

Andrew Gwilt   22/08/2017 at 17:21

Sad about that First MTR South Western Railway that does not want the Class 707's. Which is likely they could end up getting scrapped or could allow other train operates to use the Class 707's. GTR Southern might agree to use the Class 707's to replace their Class 455's fleet used on the South London suburban routes plus Siemens could manufacture more Class 707's for Southern if necessary. Plus Southern could also order more Class 707's to operate on East Coastway and West Coastway routes to replace the Class 313's. Trenitalia c2c who are to order 22 new trains might end up getting 30 Class 707's and to operate on Fenchurch St-Shoeburyness/Southend Central route with rush hour service between Laindon-Fenchurch St and Leigh-on-Sea-Fenchurch St. And to transfer some of the Class 357's to operate on Fenchurch St-Grays via Rainham and Upminster-Grays services.

Harry   22/08/2017 at 18:18

Won't they just stay on the existing line? What's the point of removing them altogether? If there is enough 707's then they can mix them with the existing fleet

Daniel   23/08/2017 at 18:27

We come out of the go british and givesway stagecoach to Hong Kong rail group with first i can not see the much for brexit.

Andrew Gwilt   24/08/2017 at 03:06

As Stagecoach Group lost the Southwest franchise to First MTR. They could extend the East Midlands franchise to 10 years and to deploy extra trains with more seats being added as well as ordering new Bi-Mode trains (if the electrification on the Midland Main Line North of Bedford won't get the go ahead). Which could be given the go ahead possibly next year. Plus Stagecoach Group could also win the bid to take over the West Midlands franchise and/or Intergrated Southeastern franchise as Govia are to lose both of these franchises at some point soon. As Govia will still maintain the TSGN franchise until 2021.

Andrew JG   24/08/2017 at 23:27

Just found out on Wikipedia that the new SWR Aventra EMU's is now classified as Class 701. Yes seriously.

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