Commuters are on track for benefitting from rail improved journeys after the Government announced that it had awarded the local rail service franchise to joint venture Govia.
The Department for Transport (DfT) awarded Govia (Go-Ahead 65 per cent, Keolis 35 per cent joint venture) the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) the franchise on May 23.
This is the largest rail franchise in the UK in terms of passenger numbers, trains, revenue, and staff.
The seven year management contract, starting in September 2014, which replaces the Thameslink and Great Northern franchise (operated as First Capital Connect, FCC) will encompass the Southern and Gatwick Express routes from July 2015 and include a small number of services and stations currently operated by Southeastern which will transfer in December 2014.
Govia runs the current Southern franchise on the East Coastway and Marshlink routes and under the new Thameslink Southern Great Northern franchise will also progressively assume control of suburban services north of the Thames.
The existing Southern branding will remain.
David Brown, Group Chief Executive The Go-Ahead Group, said he’s delighted the DfT chose them to operate this “important and complex franchise” and to “play an instrumental role in delivering the benefits of the Government’s £6 billion Thameslink Programme”, which includes a fleet of new trains and better connections, adding: “This will be the UK’s busiest franchise and we will be introducing 50 per cent more capacity into central London during peak times, with 26 per cent more morning peak carriages providing 10,000 additional seats.”
The new franchise is being let as a ‘management contract’ whereby ticket revenues are passed directly to the Government rather than retained by Govia, due to the complexity and scale of the planned changes to services and infrastructure.
Govia say they are committed to ‘delivering these changes and minimising their impacts on customers.’
Stuart Harland, Chairman of MarshLink Action Group (MLAG) said “MLAG is pleased to hear that Govia and, locally, Southern Railways have retained the franchise.
“This will, hopefully, mean that all the service issues on the MarshLink line which we have discussed with Southern, to try to improve their service, will not have been lost.
“We look forward to re-addressing those issues with the team who are familiar with hearing our arguments, (if yet to implement the solutions) and who we know.”
“At the moment we do not know what Govia has committed itself to in its franchise bid, in particular whether any of the many issues we lobbied for in the pre-franchise submission stage were included.”
“A period of enormous change is in prospect with a considerable amount of work required to ensure we get the HS1 service along the MarshLink line with alternating all-stations electric services as proposed in recent discussions with the Department for Transport and Network Rail.
“During this period, I trust (and MLAG will be working towards) the stability provided by the same operator will enable the service improvements sought over a long time to be implemented – these include better connection times at Ashford, later trains and a Sunday service at the smaller stations.”