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Thursday 09 October, 2003

National Express

Re Central Trains

National Express Group PLC
09 October 2003


Embargoed for release at 0700 hours on Thursday 9 October 2003


                          National Express Group PLC
      Central Trains - Two year franchise extension negotiations completed


National Express Group ('Group') is pleased to confirm it has secured a two year
franchise extension for its Central Trains rail franchise following the
completion of negotiations between the Strategic Rail Authority ('SRA') and West
Midlands local passenger authorities. The franchise will now run until March
2006.

As part of the agreement, the Group will invest a further £5 million in a
package of passenger benefits which will result in wide ranging customer service
improvements for passengers across the East and West Midlands.  £2 million of
this investment will be made in the West Midlands metropolitan area.

Improvements to be completed during the period of the extension include:

  • a new Customer Service Training Centre in the Midlands which will provide
    a dedicated training facility for all Central Trains employees;
  • new passenger information systems and additional staff responsible for the
    communication of information to passengers;
  • the introduction of portable data terminals for more easily accessible
    customer information;
  • new mobile telephone technology to be rolled out to on-board staff giving
    them access to latest travel information and increased security for
    passengers; and
  • new train carriage washing facilities to further improve the external
    cleaning of trains.

Confirming today's announcement Richard Bowker, Chairman and Chief Executive of
the SRA 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 of Centro, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive said:

'I am pleased that we have secured a good deal for passengers and am confident
Central Trains will use this two-year injection of public funds to improve the
quality of local rail services.  Centro will use the period of the extension to
work with the SRA on plans for a new franchise to start in 2006 which can then
take into account the longer term rail development needs of the West Midlands.'

Phil White, Chief Executive of National Express Group said:

'This is good news for everyone. During our tenure of the franchise we have
introduced new trains adding an extra 4,000 seats per day across the network.
In addition we have invested £2 million in improved station access and customer
information, £5 million in two brand new train maintenance depots and increased
the appeal of train travel by introducing a simplified fare structure with
cheaper walk-up fares.

'In addition, we continue to focus on further improving train performance which
has been impacted in the last year by rail congestion in the West Midlands and
infrastructure problems. Working closely with the SRA, Network Rail and other
operators, Central Trains has carefully targeted poor performing routes for
improvement.

'Today's news provides further stability for the Central Trains franchise and
gives us a new platform on which to take the franchise forward. The new Customer
Service Training Centre will provide Central Trains employees with an
opportunity to develop their skills to deliver better customer service.

'This announcement illustrates the Group's commitment to public transport in the
West Midlands. We look forward to working with the SRA and Centro to deliver
these improvements.'


                                    - ENDS -

Notes to Editors
          
•    National Express Group PLC was awarded the seven year Central Trains 
     franchise in the first round of rail franchise awards in March 1997. 
     Central Trains provides operates over 1,000 train services per day 
     providing high frequency train services in the East and West Midlands and 
     long-distance services between the Midlands and East Anglia, South Wales, 
     the North of England and the East Coast.  New services recently introduced 
     include services to and from Birmingham, from Liverpool and Cardiff.
     
•    Central Trains long distance services have been rebranded as Central City 
     link services.  These include Birmingham - Liverpool, Liverpool-Norwich,
     Nottingham-Cardiff and Birmingham-Stansted Airport. Central City link 
     services will provide fast and frequent express services operated by 
     air-conditioned, modern trains.  Seats can be reserved in advance and most 
     services will offer at-seat catering. A range of discount, advance purchase 
     products will be available in addition to the usual range of walk-up fares.


For further information, please contact:

Nicola Marsden, Director of Group Communications
Fiona Noblet, Group Communications Manager
National Express Group PLC                                         020 7529 2000

Ged Burgess
Communications Manager
Central Trains Limited                                             0121 654 1278



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