A new rail franchising deal has been hailed as being set to transform passenger services across London and the South-east.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has said its intention to award the new Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise to Govia Thameslink Railway Limited will mean three new state-of-the-art electric train fleets.
It said the fleets will mean more services and seats, faster journeys and better connections across many of the busiest rail routes in London and the region.
The DfT said the seven-year franchise, announced last week and the largest ever let in terms of passenger numbers, will help deliver the Government’s multi-billion pound investment in the region’s rail network, opening up new routes across London. It said the franchise will improve services to destinations along the Redhill route, including Reigate, Horsham, Tonbridge, Purley, Norwood Junction, Clapham Junction, London Victoria and London Bridge.
The DfT flagged up benefits including planned new off-peak trains calling at Redhill, Merstham, Coulsdon South and Purley to Bedford from December 2015. In a statement, it said new state-of-the-art carriages will be rolled out on these services from May 2018, boosting capacity and delivering quicker, cleaner and more reliable journeys for passengers.
Other benefits highlighted included a reduction in journey times in off-peak services from Reigate to London Bridge, and four trains per hour from the Thameslink network to service the Redhill corridor, via East Croydon, London Bridge, Blackfriars, City Thameslink, St Pancras and beyond, including Horsham, Peterborough, Gatwick and Bedford. The DfT stated that, in total, nearly 1,400 new electric carriages will be rolled out across the new franchise, providing 50% more capacity and 10,000 extra seats every weekday into central London during the morning peak by the end of 2018.
In addition, it said the new franchise will see millions invested in improving stations and staffing, a simplified ticketing structure and tough new targets for Govia to improve punctuality by reducing delays by around a fifth and to improve cleanliness.
Rail minister Stephen Hammond said: “A world-class railway is a vital part of our long-term economic plan. “New state-of-the-art trains, more seats, better connections and improved stations will transform travel across London and the South-east. “That’s great news for businesses and the hundreds of thousands of passengers who use these vital services every day.” The DfT said the TSGN franchise will play a crucial role in delivering the Government’s £6.5 billion Thameslink Programme – a major programme of infrastructure work that is helping create 8,000 jobs and will allow 24 trains per hour to travel in each direction from Blackfriars to St Pancras. New tunnels will link Peterborough and Cambridge to the existing Thameslink route, providing easy access across London via St Pancras to Gatwick and Brighton. The franchise will introduce 1,140 new carriages – already under construction - on the Thameslink network, improving services to scores of destinations, including the introduction of new cross capital services and a connection at Farringdon to London’s newest railway, Crossrail. In addition, Govia will order a new fleet of 108 carriages for the Gatwick Express service, replacing the current 25-year-old trains with a fleet better suited to the needs of airport passengers. It will also secure 150 new carriages to replace the 40-year-old trains currently operating on the route between Moorgate, North London and Hertfordshire. The DfT stated the move means the total number of carriages in service will grow to 2,631 by 2019 – an increase of 27%. It will also release some existing electric carriages to be used elsewhere in the country.
It continued: “Govia will invest significantly in improving stations, including free wi-fi at more than 100 stations, better retail and catering facilities, and improvements to customer information systems. “Staffing hours will also be extended so that at more than 100 of the largest stations there will be staff available from the first train in the morning to the last train at night.” It added: “Demanding contractual obligations on the operator will deliver cleaner and more spacious trains and improve passenger satisfaction. “Tough new benchmarks for performance, train and station cleanliness and customer service information have also been agreed.
“The operator will also develop website, smartphone and tablet apps that will make door-to-door travel easier for customers, including planning journeys, buying tickets and booking onward taxis.”
The TSGN franchise will replace the existing Thameslink and Great Northern franchise - operated as First Capital Connect - from September 14, and will include the South Central franchise - operated as Southern and Gatwick Express - when it expires in July 2015.
A small number of services and stations will also transfer from the South Eastern franchise by December 21, this year.
The current franchises provide around 273 million passenger journeys annually.
Following the announcement, and in accordance with usual procurement practice, there is currently a ten-day stand-still period before the DfT will be in a position to enter into, and complete, the formal contractual documentation and make the award to the successful tenderer. To view an interactive map of the TSGN network go to: http://maps.dft.gov.uk/tsgn/index.html