Aberdeen-based transport giant FirstGroup said today it has signed an agreement with the Department for Transport (DfT) to operate the First Great Western rail franchise until April 1, 2019.
The deal, which follows a string of franchise bid disappointments for the firm last year, could be extended for another year at the DfT’s discretion.
FirstGroup said its experience of managing the route over many years would be “crucial to the successful delivery of the major programme of infrastructure upgrades on the network”.
Chief executive Tim O’Toole added: “We are delighted to be awarded the contract by the DfT to (continue to) operate the Great Western franchise….in a deal that will deliver for passengers and taxpayers.
“We will be using our unrivalled knowledge and experience of the network to help deliver significant upgrades over the next few years, in particular the introduction of new trains as the mainline is electrified.
“We are already working closely with the DfT and Network Rail to deliver the initial phases of the £7.5billion Great Western Mainline modernisation programme.
“This investment is the biggest on the route since Brunel, and will transform a key part of the country’s transport infrastructure.”
He added: “Under our experienced management, the franchise will see new or refurbished trains on every part of the network – resulting in more frequent and faster journeys and an increase in the number of seats.
“These, and a range of further passenger benefits, will keep people moving and communities prospering across the Great Western network.”
First Great Western provides commuter, regional and branch line train services carrying more than 99 million passengers every year across the Great Western rail franchise area, which includes south Wales, the west country, the Cotswolds and large parts of southern England.
Key commuter markets including Bristol, Exeter, Oxford and Gatwick Airport will benefit from increased capacity under the new deal, and there will be 16% more peak time seats into and out of London Paddington station.
Stations will be upgraded with investment in facilities including security, customer information, accessibility and more car parking and bike storage.