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The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Tuesday that First Capital Connect's franchise will be extended by 12 months to September 2014.
After this date a new franchise will be let which, in July 2015, will then incorporate rail services currently operated by Southern. First Capital Connect's parent company FirstGroup was one of the companies shortlisted to bid for this franchise in March 2012.
Commenting on the franchise extension, First Capital Connect Managing Director Neal Lawson said:
"Despite the challenges of operating an ageing fleet of trains, passenger satisfaction has improved during our time in charge of the franchise, some elements by up to 17%, despite carrying 14m more people a year.
"We have brought in extra trains and longer services to deliver 29% more seats at the busiest times of the day on the Thameslink route and 22% extra on the Great Northern.
"We have also shown we can manage complex projects such as the Thameslink Programme which will deliver more much-needed new capacity and route improvements and we will continue working closely on this with the DfT and our industry partners."
Tim O'Toole, FirstGroup Chief Executive said:
"The publication of the timetable setting out the return to rail franchising is an important development for the industry, enabling the private sector to continue to provide effective and efficient passenger rail services with further performance and infrastructure improvements. In particular, the extension of our First Capital Connect franchise provides continuity and consistency for our passengers and enables us to continue to deliver considerable improvements to services.
"As the UK's largest and most experienced rail operator, we remain committed to maintaining a leading position in the market. We look forward to reviewing the details of the upcoming franchise competitions as they are announced, and submitting further high quality bids that deliver for passengers, taxpayers and shareholders."