Bus firm wins rail franchise

The sixth privatised rail franchise, the InterCity services out of St Pancras, was yesterday awarded to National Express, the bus company which has already won the right to run the Gatwick Express rail shuttle.

National Express won a 10-year deal with the promise of extra services and new trains. Although initially it will receive more than pounds 16.5m in subsidy - pounds 6.5m more than currently being paid to British Rail, by the end of the 10-year franchise it has committed itself to paying pounds 10m for the right to run the services. The franchise for Midland Main Line, covers services between London St Pancras and Wellingborough, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield.

While not committing itself to the existing timetable, National Express says it will "be maintaining broadly the current level of service for the first three years" and that by 1999, once new trains had been leased, there would be substantial increases in the timetable. For example, according to Roger Salmon, the franchising director, there will be "10 more services each weekday to and from Derby, 10 each weekday for Nottingham and 22 for Leicester".