First Great Western extends franchise
Transport company will continue to run services until 2019
TRANSPORT company FirstGroup’s deal to run services on the Great Western rail network has been extended.
The government deal will see First Great Western continue to run passenger rail services on the Great Western franchise until the next franchise, which is expected in April 2019.
The direct award secures an operator for the franchise for the three-and-a-half-years from September 2015.
First Great Western also announced this week its proposals to “deliver the largest train fleet upgrade in a generation”.
It will replace old trains to create 9,000 additional seats for passengers every day by the end of the franchise.
The proposals also include a £50m investment to improve stations, including 2,000 new car parking spaces across the network, customer information improvements and improved PA systems, along with improved ticketing systems.
FirstGroup chief executive, Tim O’Toole, said that the new or refurbished trains would result in more frequent and faster journeys and an increase in the number of seats.
He said: “We are delighted to be awarded the contract by the Department for Transport to operate the Great Western franchise until at least April 2019, in a deal that will deliver for passengers and taxpayers.
“As the proud operators of this important franchise, we will be using our unrivalled knowledge and experience of the network to help deliver significant upgrades over the next few years, in particular the introduction of new trains as the mainline is electrified.
“We are already working closely with the DfT and Network Rail to deliver the initial phases of the £7.5bn Great Western Mainline modernisation programme.
“This investment is the biggest on the route since Brunel, and will transform a key part of the country’s transport infrastructure.”
First Great Western will pay the government around £68m to operate the franchise from September 2015 until April 2019.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “I am determined that passengers in the West, Thames Valley and South Wales get a railway that is fit for the 21st century.
“This is a fantastic deal which will give them more seats, more services and brand new fleets of modern trains.”
The announcement follows Network Rail’s multi-billion pound programme to electrify the line from Paddington to Bristol and South Wales, Oxford and Newbury.
The network operator said that the work will allow for the introduction of new Intercity Express Programme trains and local electric trains, resulting in a 25-per-cent increase in seats by 2018, along with improved frequencies of services and journey time reductions.