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Thursday 14 September, 2000

Shadow StrategicRail

Building a Better Railway

Shadow Strategic Rail Authority
14 September 2000

This announcement is reissued to facilitate onward transmission by third party

All details remain unchanged.

Prequalifiers Confirmed for Thameslink and Wales & Borders Franchises
A record number of twelve companies have successfully met the Shadow
Strategic Rail Authority's pre qualification criteria to compete for the new
Thameslink and Wales & Borders franchises.  
The companies who will be submitting proposals for each franchise are:-       
  Thameslink                              Wales & Borders                     
  * Connex Transport UK Ltd               * Arriva plc                        
  * FirstGroup PLC in collaboration       * Connex Transport UK Ltd           
  with NS Reizigers B.V. (part of Dutch   * FirstGroup PLC                    
  Railways Group)                         * GB Railways Group PLC             
  * GB Railways Group PLC                 * Group 4 Management Services Ltd   
  * GNER Holdings Limited                 * Prism Rail PLC                    
  * The Go-Ahead Group plc in             * Serco Rail (division of Serco Ltd)
  conjunction with Via GTI      
  (Generale de Transport et d'Industrie)  * Via GTI (Generale de Transport et 
  * National Express Group PLC            d'Industrie)                        
  * Prism Rail PLC                                                            
  * S J International (A subsidiary of                                        
  Swedish State Railways)                                                     
  * Stagecoach Holdings PLC                                                   
Mike Grant, Franchising Director and Chief Executive of the SSRA said: 
' I am delighted by the very strong field of quality contenders we have
assembled to submit proposals for these major new franchises. Thameslink is
the only mainline rail link across Central London, and will be expanded
considerably under the Thameslink 2000 proposals, to provide extra capacity
for the capital's hard pressed commuters. The majority of services in Wales
will in future be run by one operator on a dedicated network better tailored
to the needs of local people.  
' To secure either of these vital franchises, potential operators must table
plans capable of delivering a step change in service quality. I will conduct
an exacting competition, where innovation and investment will be important in
reaching my final decision, as will track record. 
' I am looking for strong, committed operators, capable of providing better
service and good operational performance on these two important franchises'.  
Pre qualified companies have 60 days to prepare detailed proposals, whereupon
a shortlist will be invited to proceed further in the replacement process.
The aim is to award both franchises during 2001. Finalisation of the new
Thameslink franchise will be dependent on the outcome of the Public Inquiry
into the Thameslink 2000 development project. 
Notes to Editors 
Based on the £800 million Thameslink 2000 project, currently at public
inquiry stage, the new Thameslink franchise was announced on 26 June 2000.

The expansion of the established north-south Thameslink concept will
incorporate today's Thameslink franchise, together with the Great Northern
route (which links Kings Cross & Moorgate with Hertfordshire, Cambridge,
Kings Lynn and Peterborough) of the West Anglia/Great Northern franchise.
Following completion of the Thameslink 2000 project, it is expected that
passengers will be able to travel between Bedfordshire (including Luton
Airport), Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire to travel direct, or by same
platform interchange in London, to large swathes of Sussex (including Gatwick
Airport), and Kent (including Ashford, Dartford and Tonbridge).
Time-intensive interchanges with Underground or bus to make journeys across
London will be dramatically reduced.

The Wales & Borders franchise was announced by the SSRA on 8 August
2000. It will embrace the following service groups, currently operated by
four different operators:
* All of the services currently comprised within Cardiff Railways (Valley
Lines) franchise. 
* Services operated as part of the current Wales and West franchise in Wales,
from Cardiff to Hereford, Shrewsbury and Manchester and from Wales to
Birmingham, the West Country and London (Waterloo) via Bristol. 
* First North Western services to and along the North Wales Coast.  
* Central Trains services from Birmingham to (and within) Mid-Wales.  

The franchise will include the operation of all stations in Wales, including
those currently operated by Great Western, and those predominantly served by
the new franchise in the border counties, including of the key stations,
Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford.

Services currently operated in Wales by Great Western Trains, Virgin
CrossCountry and Virgin West Coast will not be included. 
Important Notice 
This news release is issued by the Franchising Director and its contents have
been approved for the purposes of section 57 of the Financial Services Act
1986 by KPMG Corporate Finance. 
KPMG Corporate Finance is a division of KPMG which is authorised to carry on
investment business by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and
Wales. This news release has been prepared for general information purposes
only and is not intended to form the basis of any investment decision or
constitute an offer or invitation to bid for any passenger rail franchise or
to acquire shares in a train operating company. Neither this news release nor
any copy of it should be taken into or distributed in Canada, France, Japan
or the United States except in accordance with an applicable exemption. The
distribution of this news release in other jurisdictions may be restricted by
law and therefore persons into whose possession this news release comes
should inform themselves about and observe any such restrictions. 
KPMG Corporate Finance is acting for the Franchising Director and will not
regard any other person as its client in relation to passenger railway
franchising or be responsible to anyone other than the Franchising Director
for providing the protections afforded to clients of KPMG Corporate Finance
nor for advising any other person on the contents of this news release or any
matter referred to in it.  
Media Enquiries: SSRA Press Office 0207 654 6339/6294/6234/6387

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