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Tuesday 08 August, 2000

Shadow StrategicRail

ReNew Wales&Borders Franchise

Shadow Strategic Rail Authority
8 August 2000

Building a Better Railway

New Franchise for Wales and Borders Confirmed: 
Competition launched for New Franchise 
A dedicated rail network for Wales and the border counties of England was
announced in Cardiff today by Mike Grant, Franchising Director and Chief
Executive of the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority. Proposals to run the new
franchise were also invited from the market by the SSRA.  
The scope of the network has now been defined following extensive
consultation, started in March, with the National Assembly for Wales and
other key stakeholders. Companies are today invited to pre-qualify to bid for
the new franchise - the first stage in the competitive process to appoint a
franchise operator. 
Announcing this milestone for passengers in Wales and the border counties,
Mike Grant said: 
' Today marks a new approach to travel to, from, and within Wales, where rail
has a vital role in serving the needs of rural communities. 
' This proposal will address the needs of rail passengers in Wales. Instead
of four different operators offering a disparate range of services, what we
will be seeing is one cohesive network, run by a single, fully focused,
coherent operator. 
' The competition to select that operator is now on in earnest. It will be a
tough one, with extra investment and better services our overriding criteria.
I expect to be in a position to announce the winner early next spring.' 
The new Wales and the borders franchise will embrace the following service
groups, currently operated by four different operators: 
* The entire Cardiff Railways (Valley Lines) franchise 
* Wales and West services in Wales, their route from Cardiff to Hereford,
Shrewsbury and Manchester as well as long distance inter-urban services from
Wales to Birmingham, to the West Country and to London (Waterloo) via
* 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 all stations in Wales, including those currently
operated by Great Western and those predominantly served by the new franchise
in the border counties, including the key stations of Chester, Shrewsbury and

Services currently provided by Great Western Trains, Virgin CrossCountry and
Virgin West Coast are not included in this new franchise.

There is a pre-qualification process for interested parties. Applications
should be made to Nick Newton, Executive Director, Franchise Management at
the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority, 55 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0EU in
the first instance. Interested parties should contact Nick Newton no later
than noon on Tuesday 22nd August to register their interest in the
pre-qualification process.  

Notes to Editors
A map of the proposed new Wales and the borders franchise is available from
SSRA.  Although the SSRA will consider proposals for provision of additional
services by companies which have pre-qualified. 
Rail services in Wales are currently operated by PRISM Rail (Wales &
West and Cardiff Railways) First Great Western and North Western, Virgin
Trains (West Coast and CrossCountry) and National Express Group (Central
On 15 June the Franchising Director announced a negotiated change to the
terms of the PRISM Rail portfolio of franchises, including early termination
of the Wales & West and Cardiff Railways franchises on 31 March 2001. PRISM
Rail is also currently the subject of a takeover proposal from National
Express Group (announced 18 July, and still subject to regulatory approval).

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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