WOKINGHAM’S train service to and from London Waterloo will be operated by a new partnership, after the South West Trains franchise was awarded to a new provider.
MTR, a Hong Kong based provider, will team up with First Group to take over the franchise from August 2017 until at least August 2024, the Department for Transport (DofT) announced today (Monday).
Over the course of the franchise, which will be known as First MTR, £1.2bn will be invested to improve every aspect of train journeys on the South Western network, based on feedback from customers, staff and community groups.
First MTR have pledged to provide state-of-the-art trains, and will introduce 750 new, spacious train carriages for the Windsor, Reading and London Suburban routes by December 2020, as well as 18 additional, fully refurbished trains (90 carriages) on the London-Portsmouth route from December 2018.
The company said the move will provide 52,000 more seats at London Waterloo every day, while the rest of the network’s fleet will be refreshed, and will provide more reliable Wi-Fi, charging points, and real-time travel and connection information screens.
The partnership has also announced that it will begin rolling out faster journey times to stations including Reading, Salisbury and Southampton from December 2018, and will double the service to Reading throughout the day.
Simpler fares, with mobile and smart ticketing, will also be introduced, which will include flexible season tickets and new lower fares for 16 to 18-year-olds. Claiming compensation will also be made simpler with the introduction of an easy-to-use ‘delay repay’ scheme for the first time on the network.
Station upgrades will also be introduced under the partnership, with a £90m investment planned for Southampton Central, and further capacity at Waterloo will be available by the end of 2018.
Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling said: “This is great news for rail passengers. FirstGroup and MTR will deliver the improvements that people tell us they want right across the South Western franchise area, from Southampton and Portsmouth, to Bristol and Exeter, to Reading, Windsor and London.
“We are delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century and this franchise will deliver real changes for passengers, who can look forward to modern trains, faster journeys and a more reliable service.”
FirstGroup Chief Executive Tim O’Toole said: “We are delighted that our partnership with MTR has been selected by the DfT to run the South Western rail franchise, a key part of the country’s railway network which millions of people rely on every day.
“Our successful bid will deliver the tangible improvements that customers and stakeholders have told us they want from this franchise. Passengers can look forward to new and better trains, more seats and services, quicker journey times, improved stations and more flexible fare options.”
Jeremy Long, CEO of European Business, MTR Corporation said: “MTR is known across the world for the excellent quality of its rail services, and we look forward to working with FirstGroup to provide a best-in-class travel experience for passengers in London and the South West.
“Together we will deliver a major programme of upgrades, including improvements to both rail services and customer experience, for passengers travelling across the South Western network.”