First Capital Connect loses Thameslink franchise - UPDATED
PUBLISHED: 08:33 23 May 2014 | UPDATED: 09:33 23 May 2014
It's the end of the line for First Capital Connect after the Government snubbed their bid to run the new Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise.
The seven year franchise, the largest ever let in terms of passenger numbers, has been awarded to Govia Thameslink Railway Ltd.
Three new state-of-the-art electric train fleets will mean more services and seats, faster journeys and better connections
In addition 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 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 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.
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.
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 new franchise will come into effect in September.
In response to the announcement, First Capital Connect Managing Director David Statham said: “We are of course disappointed that FirstGroup has not been selected as the operator for the TSGN franchise. We will work with Govia in order to secure the smooth transition of operations.
“Everyone at FCC is committed to continue operating First Capital Connect to the highest standards until the new TSGN franchise begins. We look forward to delivering continued improvements in service reliability, customer information and customer service until September 2014.
“I am tremendously proud of the improvements we have brought to the FCC franchise, and our role as a key partner in the Thameslink Programme. Our achievements include almost 30,000 extra seats over both routes at our business times, launching the new Class 700 rolling stock, transforming our class 365 trains, investing over £41m in station improvements, opening new communication channels with our customers including Twitter, and providing a safe and secure railway through our £1m investment in extra police support officers at stations.
“I want to thank our employees for their hard work and continued efforts to deliver the best possible service for our passengers.”