First Group’s Great Western rail franchise extended to 2019

23 Mar 15

The government is to receive £68m in payments from transport firm First Group to operate the Great Western rail franchise for three-and-half years to April 2019.

Announcing the extension of the current deal for the operator, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin also confirmed £36m would be invested to improve facilities in stations across the route, which runs across the west of England, Thames Valley and South Wales.

The new deal, which will begin in September, will also cover the introduction of 369 new rail carriages under the Intercity Express rolling stock programme.

This would give commuters more seats, more services and brand new fleets of modern trains, McLoughlin added.

‘This government knows the importance of our railways. That is why they are a vital part of our long term economic plan, with over £38bn being spent on the network between 2014 and 2019.’

The short 42-month contract is being used to cover the period of electrification upgrade work on the route, which is also required for the new trains.

First Group chief executive Tim O’Toole added the deal was good for both 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,’ he added.

‘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.’

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