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Friday 01 August, 2003

Strategic Rail Auth

Wales and Borders Franchise

Strategic Rail Authority
01 August 2003


                                                                 1st August 2003


      SRA Announces Preferred Bidder for New Integrated Wales Franchise


The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) today announced that Arriva Trains Ltd has
been selected as the preferred bidder for the new Wales & Borders Franchise with
responsibility for operating all local and regional train services in Wales and
the Border counties.  The decision follows a comprehensive competitive tendering
process.

It is planned that Arriva Trains Ltd will take over the franchise by the end of
2003 and operate it for fifteen years, subject to five-year Performance Review
assessments.

The key commitments contained within the new franchise include:
     
•    Creation of an integrated Wales & Borders franchise structured around 
     services currently operated today;

•    Introduction of seven class 150 Diesel Multiple Units planned from December 
     2004, leading to greater operational flexibility and resilience, to 
     replace current, less suitable stock;
     
•    Introduction of 30 new integrated train / bus tickets by November 2005, 
     permitting many new opportunities for through journeys;

•    Improved bi-lingual access, including a Welsh Language customer service 
     phone line, passenger timetables and information, full bi-lingual signage 
     and recorded station announcements at stations where there are existing 
     public address systems by May 2004;

•    Introduction of the new, customer-focused 'Station Adopter' scheme;

•    £400,000 on improving station car parks at Cardiff Central (Wood Street), 
     Chester, Hereford, Newport and Shrewsbury;

•    Final development of a simplified timetable, making train services much 
     easier for passengers to use, as well as better performance and 
     connections, for implementation within the first three years of the 
     franchise for the Valley Lines and inter-urban services;

•    Abolition of the £1 reservation charge for bicycles on trains;

•    A better compensation scheme for passengers.

SRA Chairman, Richard Bowker, said:

'This is a major step towards the new integrated Welsh franchise.  The
specification of the new franchise has been designed to encourage more people to
use rail and places a strong emphasis on local accountability and management.
This has all been achieved through a partnership between the Welsh Assembly
Government and the SRA.  Arriva now have a short period in which to reach
Franchise Agreement signature with the Authority, with the aim of taking over
the franchise by the end of the year.'


Notes to Editors
     
1.   The Wales & Borders franchise includes all local and regional passenger 
     rail services within Wales, services from Cardiff to Hereford, Shrewsbury 
     and Manchester, and those from Wales to Birmingham, North West England and 
     the West Country.  The services are currently operated under existing 
     franchise agreements by National Express Group plc, using the 'Wales & 
     Borders' branding - with the exception of services in North Wales and parts 
     of the North West of England, currently operated by First Group plc (as 
     First North Western).
     
2.   The new franchise will include the operation of all stations in Wales, and 
     those predominantly served by the new franchise in the border counties, 
     including Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford. It will include the current 
     Passenger Service Requirement as well as additional service commitments.
     
3.   Long-distance high-speed services to and from Wales will continue to be 
     operated by First Great Western, Virgin CrossCountry and Virgin West Coast.

                   
 For further details contact the SRA Press Office: 020 7654 6339/6862/6387/6234

     Latest news and announcements from the SRA can be viewed on our website 
                               www.sra.gov.uk
   
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