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23 May 2014, 10:42
The Department for Transport has announced the winner of the competition to run an enlarged Thameslink rail franchise.
It means current operator First Group has lost out on the future running of First Capital Connect trains between Bedford and Brighton - which includes the £6.5bn cross-London tunnels project.
The new franchise combines 3 seperate franchises - Thameslink and Great Northern (which are currently running as First Capital Connect) and Southern (Southern Rail & Gatwick Express) - and will be run by the Go-Ahead Group company Govia. The new company will run trains from as far afield as Bedford, Peterborough, Croydon, Crawley, Brighton and Chichester.
First Capital Connect will disappear when the new seven-year franchise starts in September (on Bedford and Cambridgeshire services) and Southern will join the rest of the bigger franchise from the end of July 2015.
While Go-Ahead celebrated today, FirstGroup chiefs expressed their disappointment at losing out on a franchise which, in terms of passengers, is the biggest ever awarded - the area it takes over currently covers 273 million passenger journeys annually.
The Department for Transport said today that would open up new routes across London and improving services to scores of destinations, including Brighton, King's Lynn, Peterborough, Cambridge, Bedford, Luton and Gatwick airports and Moorgate.
Nearly 1,400 new electric carriages will be rolled out across the new franchise, providing 50% more capacity and 10,000 extra seats every week day into central London during the morning peak by the end of 2018, delivering quicker, cleaner and more reliable journeys for passengers and businesses.
In addition, the new franchise will see millions invested in improving stations and staffing, a simplified ticketing structure and tough new targets for Govia to improve punctuality by reducing delays by around a fifth, and improve cleanliness.
Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: "A world class railway is a vital part of our long-term economic plan. New state-of-the-art trains, more seats, better connections and improved stations will transform travel across London and the South East. That's great news for businesses and the hundreds of thousands of passengers who use these vital services every day."
The TSGN franchise will play a crucial role in delivering the Government's Thameslink Programme - a major programme of infrastructure work that is helping create 8,000 jobs and will allow 24 trains per hour to travel in each direction from Blackfriars to St Pancras.
New tunnels will link Peterborough and Cambridge to the existing Thameslink route, providing easy access across London via St Pancras to Gatwick and Brighton.
The franchise will introduce 1,140 new carriages - already under construction - on the Thameslink network, improving services to scores of destinations, including the introduction of new cross capital services and a connection at Farringdon to London's newest railway, Crossrail.
In addition, Govia will order a new fleet of 108 carriages for the Gatwick Express service, replacing the current 25-year-old trains with a fleet better suited to the needs of airport passengers.
It will also secure 150 new carriages to replace the 40 year-old trains currently operating on the route between Hertfordshire, north London and Moorgate.
London Luton Airport welcomes the news that Govia Thameslink Railway Limited (Govia) will operate the Thameslink Rail Franchise serving the Airport from September 2014.
The new franchise will see the introduction of a minimum of two services an hour around the clock between London St. Pancras International and Luton Airport Parkway.
Each year an extra 400,000-600,000 existing passengers are expected to take advantage of the additional early morning services when the Airport is at its busiest. This number is expected to grow as the number of passengers using the Airport increases in line with the development of London Luton between now and the end of the rail franchise.
The Airport looks forward to assisting Govia with upgrades to simplified ticketing options, such as smartcards, and removing the separate and confusing charge for the shuttle bus to the Terminal building.
Glyn Jones, Managing Director of London Luton Airport, said: "Coming just a couple of weeks after the Airport received the green light from the Government to invest in London Luton's future, it's important that an improved rail service between now and 2021 keeps pace with the demands of a developing Airport and its passengers.
Under the Department for Transport's new approach to involve stakeholders like the Airport in how rail franchises can be better managed and improved, we look forward to working with Govia to improve the speed and frequency of trains serving the Airport and to deliver long term creative solutions to some of the legacy issues that have impacted the overall experience of travelling to and from London Luton by train".
In response to today’s franchise announcement by the Department for Transport, First Capital Connect Managing Director David Statham said: "We are of course disappointed that FirstGroup has not been selected as the operator for the TSGN franchise. We will work with Govia in order to secure the smooth transition of operations.
Everyone at FCC is committed to continue operating First Capital Connect to the highest standards until the new TSGN franchise begins. We look forward to delivering continued improvements in service reliability, customer information and customer service until September 2014.
I am tremendously proud of the improvements we have brought to the FCC franchise, and our role as a key partner in the Thameslink Programme.
Our achievements include almost 30,000 extra seats over both routes at our business times, launching the new Class 700 rolling stock, transforming our class 365 trains, investing over £41m in station improvements, opening new communication channels with our customers including Twitter, and providing a safe and secure railway through our £1m investment in extra police support officers at stations.
I want to thank our employees for their hard work and continued efforts to deliver the best possible service for our passengers."