The government has reached an agreement with First Group plc for First Great Western (FGW) to continue to operate trains between London Paddington, the Cotswolds, South Wales and the south west until April 2019.
The new deal will include a host of extra benefits for passengers including:
around 3,000,000 additional seats per year by 2018 across the franchise
4000 more morning peak seats into London every day by December 2018
proposals for a brand new fleet of privately funded trains
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.
This government knows the importance of our railways. That is why they are a vital part of our long term economic plan, with over £38 billion being spent on the network between 2014 and 2019.
FirstGroup Chief Executive Tim O’Toole said:
We are delighted to be awarded the contract by the DfT to operate the Great Western franchise to at least 1 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 £7.5 billion 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.
Under our experienced management, the franchise will see new or refurbished trains on every part of the network, resulting in more frequent and faster journeys and an increase in the number of seats. These, and a range of further passenger benefits, will keep people moving and communities prospering across the Great Western network.
FGW will pay the government around £68 million to operate the franchise from September 2015 until April 2019.
FGW will be responsible for introducing Hitachi’s Intercity Express Trains into service between London, Bristol and South Wales and the Cotswolds from summer 2017. Government will also work with FGW to improve the performance and quality of the rolling stock serving the south west of England, particularly for intercity services, during this direct award.
As well as a host of benefits for passengers, the new 42-month franchise will also see vital work taking place to upgrade the line.
Network Rail is already leading a multi-billion pound programme of rail improvements across the Great Western network. These include:
the continued redevelopment of Reading Station to remove a major bottleneck, reduce delays and create 4 extra train paths in each direction per hour
electrification of the line from Paddington to Bristol and South Wales, Oxford and Newbury, which will allow the introduction of new Intercity Express Programme trains and local electric trains - this will see the total fleet size increase; generating, by 2018, a 25% increase in seats and bringing increased frequencies and journey time reductions
journey time improvements of 14 minutes for journeys between Cardiff and London