China-based MTR signs on for South West Trains franchise

China-based MTR signs on for South West Trains franchise

The British department for transport has announced First MTR South Western Trains has been awarded the South Western franchise.

First MTR is a partnership between China-based MTR and First Group.

The new organisation will take over from Stagecoach, which currently runs South Western Trains services across south west England to and from London Waterloo.

The franchise will run for seven years from August.

It is the first franchise awarded since the secretary of state set out his vision for the future of the railways in a speech on in December last year, and marks “a new era in joined up working between train operators and Network Rail”, the department said.

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Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “First MTR South Western Trains will deliver the improvements that people tell us they want right across the South Western franchise area, from Bristol and Exeter, to Southampton and Portsmouth, to Reading, Windsor and London.”

First MTR South Western Trains will use the experience of one of its major shareholders MTR, who operate the busy Hong Kong metro, to deliver smooth and rapid journeys for passengers travelling around London’s suburban network, added Grayling.

The new franchisee will oversee a £1.2 billion investment that it is hoped will improve journeys for millions of train passengers, and provide a boost for the communities served.

The next franchise will see 22,000 extra seats into London Waterloo each morning peak and 30,000 extra seats out of Waterloo each evening peak.

At the same time, a fleet of 90 new trains, providing more space for passengers on Reading, Windsor and London routes, will be introduced.

Jeremy Long, chief executive, 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.”