Competition for the Southeastern rail franchise has been terminated meaning the current operator will continue for at least another six months.
The network, which includes train services from Hastings to London, is run by Govia — a joint venture between the Go-Ahead Group and Keolis.
The current franchise agreement was due to end in November this year, but will now run until at least April 2020, the Department for Transport has confirmed.
David Statham, Southeastern’s managing director, said: “We’re proud to have delivered more than £80 million of improvements for passengers since we began a new direct award contract in 2014.
“Punctuality has improved by nearly ten per cent in two years, we’ve introduced free WiFi on our trains and boosted capacity on board with 5,000 extra seats.
“Over this next extension period, our focus remains squarely on our passengers, delivering more improvements and continuing to improve the punctuality and reliability of our services.”
David Brown, Go-Ahead’s chief executive, added: “A lot of hard work was put into a strong bid that would have built upon the achievements of Southeastern in recent years in improving performance and customer satisfaction, delivering more capacity and investment.
“Whilst we’re disappointed that our original bid is not being taken forward, we will engage with the DfT on next steps.”
The decision by the DfT was because the Government was concerned continuing the competition process would lead to extra costs with no certainty this would deliver benefits for passengers in a timely fashion.
Mick Cash, general secretary at the RMT union, said: “The cancellation of the competition for the Southeastern franchise shows yet again that the whole privatised rail system is broken and coming apart at the seams.”
Rachael Maskell, Labour’s shadow rail minister, added: “It’s clear that the government does not believe franchising competition can deliver benefits for passengers – but they have no ideas for how to deliver better services.
“The Conservatives have no plan for the sorting out the rail network. Passengers in the south east and across the country deserve better, and only Labour’s plan to bring the rail system into public ownership will deliver a reliable and integrated system.”