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South West Wiltshire Liberal Democrats

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New franchise could improve Wiltshire trains

July 27, 2012 8:16 PM
By the government

A new 15 year Great Western franchise beginning next July could see passengers benefit from new express trains, additional capacity, smart card ticketing and passenger satisfaction targets as part of proposals put forward today. Four companies are being invited to tender for the franchise. As well as the core requirements the companies are being invited to price a selection of optional extras. These include a much strengthened service on the Heart of Wessex line between Bristol and Weymouth, and on the Trans-Wilts line additional weekday rail services and reinstatement of Sunday services from Salisbury to Swindon via Melksham.

Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said:

"Passengers using the Great Western Line will benefit from major infrastructure improvements and new rolling stock over the next few years, as a result of the Government's ambitious programme of rail improvements, including extensive electrification.

"For the first time on the Great Western franchise, we will be introducing requirements on passenger satisfaction for the train operator to meet which will mean they have to focus strongly on the issues that matter the most to passengers. Extending smart card ticketing across the franchise will provide many more passengers across the West and South West with the kind of convenience Oyster has brought to Londoners. The Sleeper train is being retained, Plymouth gets the new early train from London they asked for and the future of popular extra local services such as the Severn Beach Line and Truro to Falmouth has been secured.

"This new franchise will see additional capacity delivered to benefit passengers. A more efficient and flexible franchise will encourage private sector investment, for example in improving stations and investing in rolling stock. It will promote greater efficiency and also enable the train operator to react to more effectively to changing passenger demands."

The new franchise will run for 15 years from July 2013 to July 2028. It will require broadly the same number of trains to run between end-to-end destinations as is the case today, while giving the new operator greater flexibility with regard to timetabling and calling patterns and, in certain instances, use of connecting trains.

This flexibility will help ensure the line is used in the most efficient way for passengers and potentially allow faster journey times and improved services. It will also encourage private sector investment in the franchise, including stations.

A number of other options which could help to further improve local services have been included which potential operators are invited to consider and provide pricing for so that they can be taken forward if a value for money solution is provided and local funding is available.

Full press release

The four shortlisted bidders are: First Great Western Trains Limited (FirstGroup plc); GW Trains Limited (Arriva UK Trains Limited - DB (UK) Investments Limited); NXGW Trains Limited (National Express Group PLC); and Stagecoach Great Western Trains Limited (Stagecoach Group plc).