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Friday 20 August, 2004

Strategic Rail Auth

New ScotRail franchise signed

Strategic Rail Authority
20 August 2004


                                                                  20 August 2004


             New Scottish Passenger Rail Franchise Agreement Signed

The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) today announced that it has signed, on behalf
of the Scottish Executive, a franchise agreement with FirstGroup plc to operate
the Scottish Passenger Rail Franchise. FirstGroup was confirmed as Preferred
Bidder on 11 June 2004.

•   The new seven-year franchise will start operating from 02:00 hours on
    Sunday 17 October 2004. Total subsidy for the seven year period will be £1.9
    billion at current prices.

•   It is consistent with the SRA's franchise policy, which sets out clearer 
    requirements for the service to be delivered to passengers, and is in
    accordance with the Scottish Executive's specification.

•   FirstGroup will invest in a £40m package of measures to upgrade and improve 
    facilities at stations across Scotland. This will include additional 
    Customer Information Systems and CCTV facilities, help points and public 
    address systems.

•   FirstGroup has plans to make significant investment in four major stations: 
    Stirling, Aberdeen, Glasgow Queen Street and Edinburgh Haymarket.

•   The franchise retains existing levels of rail services and includes
    contractualised, specified targets for year-on-year reductions in 
    cancellations and improved punctuality.  A financial penalty/incentive 
    regime will ensure quality of station and train facilities over the whole of 
    the franchise.


SRA Chairman Richard Bowker said:

'Now the SRA has, on behalf of the Scottish Executive, signed a new franchise
with FirstGroup, there is in place an excellent set of future benefits for
Scotland's rail passengers. These are the direct result of a hard fought
franchise competition against a clear specification agreed with the Executive.'

'The new franchise complements other important developments affecting
Scotland's railway such as the introduction of new and longer rolling stock and
longer platforms, and sets a new standard for the delivery of rail services in
Scotland. Throughout this whole process the excellent working partnership
arrangement between ourselves and the Executive was a major contributor to the
overall success in securing the deal.'

Scottish Transport Minister Nicol Stephen said:

'Passengers can expect more reliable and customer-friendly train services. There
will be significant investment in trains, new rail lines and better stations.
The deal creates a solid foundation for major improvements to Scotland's rail
network.'


Notes to Editors


1.   In the case of this franchise the SRA acted as procurement agent on the
     Scottish Executive's behalf.

2.   This franchise has been awarded in accordance with the Directions and
     Guidance given to the SRA by Scottish Ministers in July 2002.

3.   On 15th July 2004 the Secretary of State for Transport announced a White
     Paper which sets out the blueprint for the future of Britain's railways. 
     More information on this can be found on the Department for Transport 
     website at www.dft.gov.uk.

4.   On 16th June the Scottish Transport Minister announced a White Paper 
     outlining proposals to improve transport in Scotland and create a new 
     transport agency for Scotland.

5.   The franchise will run for seven years with specified performance targets 
     providing for a 2% per year improvement in performance. A possible three
     year extension could be available.

6.   The existing franchise held by National Express Group plc expires on 17
     October 2004.

7.   This new franchise covers all existing rail services that start and end
     in Scotland and cross-border sleeper services.


For further details contact the SRA Press Office: 020 7654 6339/6285/6387/6234/
6862 or the Scottish Executive Press Office: 0131-244 1614/2625

Latest news and announcements from the SRA and the Scottish Executive can be
viewed on the following websites: www.sra.gov.uk and www.scotland.gov.uk


                      This information is provided by RNS
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