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Thursday 23 November, 2000

Shadow StrategicRail

New West Country Franchise

Shadow Strategic Rail Authority
23 November 2000

A new franchise to meet the growing demand for rail services in South West
England was announced today by the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority (SSRA). 
The Wessex franchise has been designed to attract new investment and to
provide management focus on the important interurban and local services in
the West Country, as well as improving cross country links between the
region, Cardiff and the South Coast. 
Key objectives of the new franchise are: 
* Increased track capacity to carry more frequent trains on the
Waterloo-Exeter line to provide a better alternative to the busy A303. 
* A new business unit for the Bristol travel to work area to encourage the
franchisee to develop rail commuting and cross-city services in the Bristol
* Provision of adequate capacity to meet the needs of holiday passengers in
the region and good connections with inter city services. 
* Better access to rail services and a step change in customer satisfaction
with stations. 
The prequalification process for companies interested in operating the new
franchise, and submitting replacement proposals for it, starts today.
Applications should be made to Nick Newton, Executive Director Commercial, at
the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority, 55 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0EU.
Interested parties should contact him no later than Friday 15th December 2000
to register their interest. Once this process is completed, prequalifiers
will be required to put together initial proposals. 
For local rail services currently provided West of Plymouth by Wales & West,
a separate business unit will be established to provide local management
accountability and customer focus. It is intended that this Cornwall and
Plymouth Business Unit will either be operated within the Wessex franchise or
as an addition to the mainline franchises in the South West. Therefore,
counterparties who have successfully prequalified for the Wessex franchise
will be invited to submit proposals for the operation of this, as will the
two mainline operators in the South West of England, First Great Western and
Virgin CrossCountry. 
It is expected that shortlisted counterparties for both Wessex and local
services in Cornwall will be announced in mid 2001. 
Announcing details of the new franchise and business units, Mike Grant,
Franchising Director and Chief Executive of the SSRA said: 
' The Wessex franchise, carefully structured after extensive consultation
with user groups and key stakeholders, represents a breakthrough in the
future provision of rail services in the South West.  
' In franchise replacement, the needs of passengers always come first. We
have drawn heavily on consultations with the Southern, Western, and Welsh
Rail Passengers' Committees, the South West Regional Assembly, the Regional
Development Agency and local authorities, to ensure the best possible
' By combining a number of Wales & West and South West Trains services into
the core franchise and creating separate management units for Bristol and
Cornwall local services, I believe that rail services in the region will
become far better equipped to deal with the future demands and expectations
of local communities.' 
SSRA Chairman, Sir Alastair Morton, welcomed the launch of the new franchise: 
' The shape of the new railway is now starting to emerge from planning to
implementation. The Chiltern and South West Trains service areas, Wales and
the borders, and now Wessex, are seeing what lies ahead in terms of
enhancements for their regional rail services. 
' When a new Thames franchise, serving primarily commuters living relatively
close to London, and negotiations to improve the existing long term First
Great Western franchise are launched, we can go on to complete the procedure
for the entire region west of London and south of Birmingham.' 

Wessex franchise

This will include the transfer from South West Trains of services on the
following routes: 
London Waterloo - Salisbury - Exeter (and beyond) 
Reading - Basingstoke - Brighton  
Southampton - Salisbury  
And the transfer from Wales & West of services on the following routes:- 
Barnstaple - Exeter 
Plymouth/Paignton - Exeter 
Exmouth - Exeter 
Brighton/Portsmouth - Cardiff  
Southampton - Bristol 
Southampton - Swindon 
Weymouth - Bristol 
Portsmouth - Exeter - Penzance 
Swindon - Gloucester/Cheltenham 
Taunton - Weston-super-Mare - Bristol* (local services) 
Bristol - Cardiff* 
Bristol - Gloucester/Cheltenham - Worcester / Birmingham*, including through
services to and from Taunton and Weston-super-Mare (local services) 
Bristol - Severn Beach* 
Bath - Filton Abbey Wood * 
* Denotes part of Bristol business unit 
Cornwall & Plymouth Business Unit 
This will include the transfer from Wales & West of services on the following
Plymouth - Gunnislake 
Penzance - Plymouth (local services) 
Liskeard - Looe 
Par - Newquay 
Truro - Falmouth Docks 
Penzance/St Erth - St Ives 
The West Country services provided by First Great Western and Virgin
CrossCountry remain outside the scope for the new franchise, as does the
Thames Trains franchise. 
Notes to Editors 
A map depicting the areas covered by the Wessex franchise is available from
The SSRA has already announced its intention to create separate Wales &
Borders and Wessex franchises from the current Wales & West franchise,
amongst others. The intention is that, separately, these franchises can
dedicate their efforts to serving the interests of those living in their
regions more effectively. The scope of the Wales & borders franchise was
confirmed by the SSRA in August. Eight companies have prequalified.
The Wessex franchise will include all passenger stations currently
operated by Wales & West for the services specified above (apart from
stations in Wales on the line between Bristol and Cardiff and those west of
Plymouth), and all passenger stations currently operated by South West Trains
along the Exeter route west of Basingstoke. The decision to include Waterloo
to Exeter services was previously announced by the SSRA on 12 October 2000.

The Cornwall and Plymouth business unit will include all passenger
stations west of Plymouth.

Consultation has taken place with the Rail Passenger Committees for
Western England and Southern England, the Regional Assembly's transport
committee, the Regional Development Agency, Government Office (South West),
and County and Unitary Councils within the region. 

Media Enquiries: sSRA Press Office 020 7654 6339/ 6294/ 6234

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.  


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