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First/MTR partnership awarded South Western franchise

First MTR South Western Trains has today (March 27) been awarded the South Western franchise, pending the completion of a mandatory ten-day standstill period.

The new franchise will commence from August 20 and run for seven years, with an extension period that can be invoked at the discretion of the Secretary of State for Transport.

MTR, which operates the Hong Kong Metro, will hold a 30% share of the joint venture with FirstGroup that will oversee a £1.2 billion investment programme and route upgrade, unlocking capacity for 22,000 extra seats into Waterloo during the morning peak and 30,000 more seats for outward journeys in the evening peak.

First MTR South Western Trains has also committed to providing at least 1,500 new car park spaces, refurbished waiting rooms, and an upgrade of Southampton Central.

The use of smartcards will be expanded, while a new flexible season ticket and automatic delay repay compensation will both be introduced. The new franchise also includes energy efficiency and apprenticeship targets.

Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling said: “We look forward to working with First MTR South Western Trains and Network Rail to ensure that passengers receive the improvements they have demanded as we transform their rail travel experience.”

Unsuccessful bidder Stagecoach Group has run the franchise continuously for the past 21 years, making the South West Trains franchise the only one to have remained in the same hands since privatisation in 1996.

For more on this story, see RAIL 824, published on April 12.



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  • AndrewG1989 - 27/03/2017 17:46

    So what will happen to the Isle of Wright "Island Line". Will it separate and to operate as a Open Access franchise for the Isle of Wright. With First MTR to rebrand "South West Trains" to "Southwestern Trains" with further Class 707's to be delivered for the Windsor Line.

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    • FrankH - 29/03/2017 20:39

      They are to work with the isle of Wight to "secure a more sustainable island line". Make what you can of that.

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  • Melvyn - 27/03/2017 18:44

    Hopefully all arrivals and departures at Waterloo Station won't include the full name of this operator " Platform 1 for First MTR South West Trains service to Hampton Court ...!" At least the Liverpool Street Station " One service at 9.01 from platform 1 to Enfield Town " was briefer ! How ironic that it was Stagecoach that was held up by Major Conservative Government as pioneer of rail Privatisation and now another conservative government thinks Chinese is better than British!

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    • FrankH - 28/03/2017 11:19

      MTR has a 30% stake in First MTR. Who wins a franchise all boils down to one thing, money. Be it subsidy or premium payments.

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  • FrankH - 27/03/2017 18:45

    18 class 442's to be refurbed to as new condition. 90 new emu sets (750 carriages) on top of the class 707's on order.

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    • David Habershon - 28/03/2017 12:08

      This is excellent news. At last the Portsmouth line will have adequate rolling stock with proper seating appropriate to an inter city service. We've been waiting for this since 2006. The 442s back where they belong.

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  • Chris Brown - 28/03/2017 09:17

    Change I suspect for the sake of change. I suspect First/MTR have offered silly money to run the franchise. It is no coincidence that the two most reliable franchises are the ones that have long franchises, Chiltern & C2C both helped of course by pretty much self contained routes. On busy multi operator routes punctuality depends on both other operators and Network Rail.

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    • Dennis Dash - 30/03/2017 14:20

      I suspect too that all will not run smoothly for First MTR - there is bound to be DOO and that is bound to cause industrial strife. Stagecoach, who have done an excellent job with SWT may have avoided a poison chalice here me thinks.

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  • Mike Dodsworth - 01/04/2017 12:58

    I guess this marks the end of the very cheap advance tickets from Exeter to Waterloo via Honiton once First runs both services to London.

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  • Azuma - 02/04/2017 22:15

    Wonder if the long haul trains (Class 442 & 444) to Weymouth via Southampton and Portsmouth will use the former Eurostar international platforms 20 to 24 at London Waterloo. It's a great idea since these platforms were made for express trains. Hope it happens.

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  • Azuma - 02/04/2017 22:16

    Wonder if the long haul trains (Class 442 & 444) to Weymouth via Southampton and Portsmouth will use the former Eurostar international platforms 20 to 24 at London Waterloo. It's a great idea since these platforms were made for express trains. Hope it happens.

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