The UK Department of Transport directly awarded Govia and FirstGroup the contracts to continue operations on across the South of England and Wales to ensure vital services during the coronavirus.
Great Western Railway, owned by FirstGroup, has been awarded a direct award for 3 years, extendable to 4, while the agreement with Southeastern, owned by Govia, envisages a direct award for up to 2 years.
“These contracts will keep services running in the short-term but also are positive news for passengers in the future, focusing on more reliable services, extra capacity and improvements to the stations they use every day,” Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said.
Major improvements to be delivered by GWR include the planned introduction of additional new capacity in the Bristol and Exeter areas.
Southeastern passengers will benefit from space for thousands of extra passengers during the morning and evening peak times, while more front-line staff will be recruited to help passengers with their journeys.
These agreements will run concurrently with the emergency measures agreements announced on March 23 which will see the government temporarily take on the revenue and cost risk associated with individual franchises. The DfT has temporarily suspended the normal franchise agreements and transferred all revenue and cost risk to the government for a limited period, initially 6 months. Operators will continue to run services day-to-day for a small predetermined management fee. Terms and conditions of employment for rail workers will not change.
Running since 2005, the Great Western franchise provides services from London to the West and South West of England and South Wales, local and regional services in South West of England and commuter services in the Thames Valley. It is one of the largest and most diverse franchises in the UK, with major commuter, business and leisure markets.
Southeastern has been running the train service between London and Kent and parts of East Sussex since 2006. It operates one of the busiest networks in the country including the UK’s first domestic high-speed service with Javelin trains.