In a shock announcement today made by government, First Group and Hong-Kong based MTR will jointly take over and run the South West Trains franchise from August 2017 for the next seven years.
The new company, First MTR South Western Trains Limited, will use the experience of one of its major shareholders MTR, who operate the busy Hong Kong metro, to deliver smooth and rapid journeys for passengers travelling around London’s suburban network. Faster journeys will be delivered through a consistent fleet of new suburban trains offering a regular, metro-style service. Passengers can look forward to more space, ensuring that the railway can support London’s growth.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:
First MTR South Western Trains Limited will deliver the improvements that people tell us they want right across the South Western franchise area, from Bristol and Exeter, to Southampton and Portsmouth, to Reading, Windsor and London.
We are delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century and this franchise will deliver real changes for passengers, who can look forward to modern trains, faster journeys and a more reliable service.
The new franchise promises a lot of improvements over the next few years, some of which are outlined below. Sadly the Kingston Loop / Shepperton branch line seem to not benefit from any major improvements, but we have contact First Group for comment.
This new franchise agreement will not affect the major engineering works taking place this summer at Waterloo, as those works, and Waterloo Station are managed by Network Rail.
Image map courtesy of First Group