Published on : Wednesday, March 29, 2017
The First MTR South Western Trains Ltd joint venture of the UK’s FirstGroup (70%) and Hong Kong’s MTR Corp (30%) has been selected as preferred bidder for the next South Western passenger operating franchise, the Department for Transport announced on March 27.
First MTR will operate the franchise from August, promising to deliver faster and more frequent services across southern England to and from London Waterloo, with new trains and timetables providing 20% more seats in the morning rush hour.
The operator will pay £2.6bn in premiums to the government over the next seven years, of which £1.2bn will be reinvested in the railway, according to the terms of the deal.
The current operator, part of Stagecoach Group, runs more than 1,600 trains a day, mainly to south-west London, Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset, as well as operating the Island Line on the Isle of Wight.
Waterloo, the London terminus for the franchise, is the busiest transport hub in Europe, with 200 million passengers a year. It is severely CONSTRAINED BY Victorian infrastructure, and in August a huge project will see many platforms lengthened to allow trains to increase from eight to 10 carriages. This programme aims to deliver 22,000 extra seats into Waterloo during the morning peak, and 30,000 leaving the station each evening.
In order to help commuters find these elusive seats, a new smartphone app will provide live information on seating availability and crowding levels, so that passengers can choose the best place to stand to board the train.
A new Smartcard will be rolled out, automatically offering the cheapest walk-up single or day-return fare. Part-time workers will be able to buy flexible season tickets that cover fewer than five days a