November 2022, Virtual
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
Hong Kong company MTR has been awarded one of the biggest rail franchises in the UK.
The government has confirmed the firm, which operates the Hong Kong metro, along with First Group will run the franchise for seven years from August 20, taking over from Stagecoach.
It’s the first franchise awarded since transport secretary Chris Grayling set out his “vision for the future of the railways” in a speech late last year. Grayling said it marks a “new era in joined up working” between train operators and Network Rail.
The government said First MTR South Western Train Ltd will oversee a £1.2 billion investment programme to improve services for passengers, which will include 22,000 extra seats into London Waterloo at peak times and a fleet of 90 new trains on Reading, Windsor and London routes.
Investment will also be used to modernise stations, automated compensation for late trains, better Wi-Fi and more charging points for mobile devices.
Stagecoach said it was disappointed with the decision.
FirstGroup chief executive Tim O'Toole said they were "delighted" their partnership with MTR had been chosen by the Department for Transport, and promised "tangible improvements" to the franchise.
"Passengers can look forward to new and better trains, more seats and services, quicker journey times, improved stations and more flexible fare options," he said.
Jeremy Long, from MTR, said: "Together we will deliver a major programme of upgrades, including improvements to both rail services and customer experience, for passengers travelling across the South Western network.”
In 2014, MTR Corporation was awarded the contract to run the new Crossrail service through London. The franchise will run for an initial eight years with an option to extend for 10 years after that.