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Wednesday 06 November, 2002

Strategic Rail Auth

New Franchise for West

Strategic Rail Authority
06 November 2002


                     SRA Announces New Franchise for the West

The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) today announced its intention to create a new
Greater Western rail franchise by no later than 2006, which will deliver better
quality, more coherent services for passengers between London and the West.

The new franchise will combine the current Great Western Trains, Thames Trains
and Wessex Trains franchises into a single franchise.   The decision follows
extensive consultation with passenger groups, local and regional stakeholders
and the rail industry on its policy to achieve a single franchised operator at
each major London station.

Richard Bowker, SRA Chairman, says:

'Combining the franchises serving Western England will simplify journey planning 
and improve services for passengers.

'The Greater Western franchise will operate under the SRA's new franchising
policy that we announced today: we will be specifying what the franchisee should
deliver and will work closely alongside them, to ensure consistent performance
levels and high quality services. As part of the specification, there will be
Business Units within the franchise which will ensure that we retain the focus
on existing regions while reaping the performance, capacity and passenger
service benefits that combining these franchises will bring.

'This is a process which will deliver improvements to services for passengers in 
the West of England, South Wales and the Thames Valley.'

Notes to Editors

1.      The SRA is currently considering options for Thames and Great Western 
        services under its Capacity Utilisation Policy (CUP).

2.      The SRA intends to enter negotiations with National Express Group next 
        year to extend its existing Wessex Trains franchise from its current 
        expiry in April 2004 until it is combined as part of a competitively-let 
        Greater Western franchise by February 2006.

3.      The SRA intends that all domestic services into Waterloo will be 
        operated by South West Trains from 2004 including the Waterloo-Exeter 
        services and Reading-Brighton services (which were originally intended 
        to form part of Wessex Trains) and the current limited Wales & Borders 
        Waterloo services.

4.      Details of the SRA's new franchising policy and its decision on 
        combining rail franchises can be found in a press release and document 
        issued today.  Those are available on the SRA website at www.sra.gov.uk

Media Enquiries: SRA Press Office 020 7654 6339/6387/6234


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