Great Western Line deal extended


Passengers have been promised improvements on a key rail route after a train company was given a 23-month extension to its franchise.

The Government said First Great Western (FGW) will carry on running the Great Western main line until September 2015 before bidding starts for a new long-term franchise.

The line runs from London's Paddington station out to the Cotswolds, South Wales and south-west England.

Greater wifi coverage and additional sleep carriages are among the improvements announced.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "The Great Western franchise provides a vital service for thousands of passengers every day and under this deal they will see real benefits.

"For communities like Devon and Cornwall the train is a lifeline bringing in business and helping secure the leisure industry the community relies upon. This agreement will provide additional sleeper carriages between London and Cornwall securing the future of a key service once under threat."

He went on: "We have also secured a commitment to deliver greater wifi coverage to improve the experience of long-distance journeys for passengers. But I am also determined that we see further improvements during the lifetime of this contract; more standard class and fewer first class seats on key services and the delivery of more electric trains for the Thames Valley.

"This agreement provides further proof that the Government's new franchising schedule is on track, delivering value for money for the taxpayer and supporting the ongoing multibillion-pound investment programme in our railways."

FirstGroup chief executive Tim O'Toole said: "Today's agreement is good news for FGW passengers, taxpayers and our shareholders as it provides continuity and consistency, building on the improvements our experienced team has already made over the last franchise period.

"We have seen significant improvements in customer satisfaction and punctuality, and working with the Department for Transport we have delivered additional capacity on the busiest morning peak trains.

"We will work closely with stakeholders and partners along the route to explore further ways to support our local communities."