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Thursday 09 October, 2003

Strategic Rail Auth

Two Year Central Trains

Strategic Rail Authority
09 October 2003


                                                                  9 October 2003

                    Two Year Central Trains Extension

The SRA has signed a two-year extension with incumbent franchisee National
Express Group PLC to operate the Central Trains passenger rail franchise which
provides services across the Midlands, North West England, and into South Wales
and East Anglia.  The current franchise will be extended from 1 April 2004 to 31
March 2006.  A new franchise will commence in April 2006 following a competitive
tender.

The terms of the extension ensures the continuation of current service levels,
measures to address customer service issues and provide certainty through the
implementation of the West Coast Mainline Strategy.  The customer service
measures include steps to improve information to passengers, train cleaning
programmes, increased staff training and additional staff to manage timetable
and engineering strategies.

SRA Chairman Richard Bowker said:

'The two-year extension will deliver stability for passengers while we go
through the period of change leading to the full implementation of the West
Coast Mainline Strategy.  It will also allow us to consider the outcome of our
West Midlands Capacity Study and develop our long-term plans for the franchise.'

Rob Donald,  Director General of Centro (the West Midlands Passenger Transport
Executive) said:

'This extension will give Centro time to work with the SRA on plans for a new
franchise to start in 2006 and for this to then take account of the longer term
rail development needs in the West Midlands.   In the meantime, we will be
working with Central Trains to apply the additional public funds over the next
two years to improve the quality of local rail services.'


Notes to Editors
     
1.   The subsidy payments for the two-year extension will be circa £221m in 
     2004/05 (dependent upon the final outcome of the financial arrangements for 
     revenue and performance), an increase of £54m compared to 2003/04 levels 
     and £236m in 2005/06, an increase of £69m compared to 2003/04 levels.  
     National Express Group has committed £5m to fund some capital schemes.

2.   Central Trains operates an extensive network of rural, urban and interurban 
     services right across the Midlands, North West England and into South Wales 
     and East Anglia.  In the West Midlands, local services are supported by 
     Centro (West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive).


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

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


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