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Tuesday 20 June, 2000

Shadow StrategicRail

Stmnt re New Franchise Study

Shadow Strategic Rail Authority
20 June 2000

SSRA announces study for new Wessex franchise
The creation of a future Wessex Rail franchise to serve the West of England
was announced by SSRA Chairman, Sir Alastair Morton today. Launching plans to
complete the reshaping of the network of passenger franchises, he underlined
that the Wessex proposal will now be the subject of further study and
extensive consultation 
The Wessex Rail proposition could be based on the important network of
interurban routes serving the area between Worcestershire, Bristol and the
South Coast. It could also include the line between Exeter and Waterloo and
local services around Bristol. It might also include longer distance services
currently operated by Thames Trains from Paddington to Worcester, Hereford
and Stratford upon Avon. Such a Wessex franchise would establish an
integrated network of local and interurban diesel services with many common
commercial and operational features. It is possible that other Thames Trains
suburban services out of Paddington might also be included within the Wessex
In Devon and Cornwall, however, the local and branch line services act as
important feeders to the main line, and the SSRA has asked the consultants to
consider whether these might be better managed as part of a main line
franchise. This would involve inviting both First Great Western and Virgin to
put proposals on how they would approach the management of these branches,
together with stopping services on the main line between Bristol and
This is a complex series of possible changes so that, as with the Wales
franchise, the SSRA will be asking consultants to study this in detail, and
is embarking today on a widespread consultation with local and regional
authorities throughout the West of England, as well as with the Passengers
Committees, with a view to having a detailed proposal ready for the market in
the autumn. 
Announcing details of the changes required to deliver the new plan, Sir
Alastair said: 
' Our aim is to create a coherent franchise for an important group of routes
between significant urban centres. Demand is growing strongly, and they
provide potentially a good alternative to busy roads. By building a stronger
franchise focussing on development of these routes, rail will be able to make
a much more significant contribution to meeting the transport needs of the
region between West Midlands and the South Coast. '  

Notes to Editors

Full details of new franchises throughout the country are contained in
SSRA press release 'Sir Alastair Morton sets out Map for UK Rail'
issued on 20 June.
The study into the implications for the franchising of services in the
West of England will be undertaken by Gibb Rail over the next three months.
Consultation will be undertaken by the SSRA with local authorities and
Rail Passenger Committees during this period. Comments are welcome from users
and other stakeholders, either addressed to the SSRA or sent via the SSRA web
site at

The Wales & West Franchise was let in October 1996 and will now expire
in March 2001. In an agreement reached last week with owners Prism Rail, the
company have agreed to restructure the company to facilitate the creation of
separate Wales and Wessex franchises.

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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