The British government has announced its intention to award the new Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise to Govia Thameslink Railway.
The seven year franchise – the largest ever let in terms of passenger numbers – will help deliver the government’s multi-billion pound investment in the region’s rail network, opening up new routes across London and improving services to scores of destinations.
The government hopes three new state-of-the-art electric train fleets will mean more services and seats, faster journeys and better connections across many of the busiest rail routes in London and the south east.
Brighton, King’s Lynn, Peterborough, Cambridge, Bedford, Luton, Gatwick Airport and Moorgate are all in line for an improved service under the terms of the deal.
Nearly 1,400 new electric carriages will be rolled out across the new franchise, providing 50 per cent more capacity and 10,000 extra seats every weekday into central London during the morning peak by the end of 2018, and delivering quicker, cleaner and more reliable journeys for passengers and businesses.
In addition, the new franchise will see millions invested in improving stations and staffing, a simplified ticketing structure and tough new targets for Govia to improve punctuality by reducing delays by around a fifth and improve cleanliness.
Rail minister Stephen Hammond said: “A world class railway is a vital part of our long-term economic plan. New state-of-the-art trains, more seats, better connections and improved stations will transform travel across London and the south east.
“That’s great news for businesses and the hundreds of thousands of passengers who use these vital services every day.”
The TSGN franchise will play a crucial role in delivering the government’s £6.5 billion Thameslink programme – a major programme of infrastructure work that is helping create 8,000 jobs and will allow 24 trains per hour to travel in each direction from Blackfriars to St Pancras.
New tunnels will link Peterborough and Cambridge to the existing Thameslink route providing easy access across London via St Pancras to Gatwick and Brighton.
The franchise will introduce 1,140 new carriages – already under construction - on the Thameslink network, improving services to scores of destinations, including the introduction of new cross capital services and a connection at Farringdon to London’s newest railway - Crossrail.
In addition, Govia will order a new fleet of 108 carriages for the Gatwick Express service, replacing the current 25-year-old trains with a fleet better suited to the needs of airport passengers.
It will also secure 150 new carriages to replace the 40-year-old trains currently operating on the route between Moorgate, north London and Hertfordshire.
That means the total number of carriages in service will grow to 2,631 by 2019 – an increase of 27 per cent.
It will also release some existing electric carriages to be used elsewhere in the country.
Govia is expected to invest significantly in improving stations, including free wi-fi at more than 100 stations, better retail and catering facilities and improvements to customer information systems.
Staffing hours will also be extended so that at more than 100 of the largest stations there will be staff available from the first train in the morning to the last train at night.
Demanding contractual obligations on the operator will deliver cleaner and more spacious trains and improve passenger satisfaction.
Tough new benchmarks for performance, train and station cleanliness and customer service information have also been agreed.
The operator will also develop website, smartphone and tablet apps that will make door-to-door travel easier for customers, including planning journeys, buying tickets and booking onward taxis.
The TSGN franchise will replace the existing Thameslink and Great Northern franchise (operated as First Capital Connect) from September 14th 2014 and will include the South Central franchise (operated as Southern and Gatwick Express) when it expires on July 26th 2015.
A small number of services and stations will also transfer from the South Eastern franchise by 21 December 2014.
The current franchises provide around 273 million passenger journeys annually.
Following the announcement, and in accordance with usual procurement practice, there will be a standstill period of ten days before the department will be a position to enter into, and complete, the formal contractual documentation and make the award to the successful tenderer.