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.