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Thursday 31 July, 2003

Strategic Rail Auth

Preferred bidder for TPE

Strategic Rail Authority
31 July 2003

                                                                    31 July 2003

        SRA Announce Preferred Bidder For TransPennine Express Franchise

The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) today announced that FGK, a consortium of
First Group plc and Keolis SA has been selected as the preferred bidder and
heads of terms have been signed for the new TransPennine Express franchise.  
The franchise will operate services on principal inter-city routes across the
North of England.

Improvements delivered by the new franchise, which incorporates a total private
sector investment  of around £260m, will include:
•    The introduction of a new fleet of 100 mile/h diesel multiple units 
     leading to improved capacity, service quality, performance and the 
     reliability of rail services on these routes, together with the 
     construction of associated new maintenance facilities

•    Introduction of a new timetable in December 2004 which delivers a regular 
     hourly service pattern, together with some increases in frequency and 
     reductions in journey times, together with some increases in capacity 
     during peak hours.  The new timetable also supports the growth objectives 
     of Manchester International Airport

•    Improvements to the Passenger's Charter commitment that compensates 
     passengers for the late running of individual trains

•    Comprehensive staff training and development schemes, with particular focus 
     on improving customers' experience

The new franchise is planned to commence in early 2004.  It will run for eight
years with the option to extend for up to a further five years.

SRA Chairman, Richard Bowker said:

'When we talk about Britain's railway, properly delivered, this is what we mean.
This franchise will deliver better trains with better performance, improved
services and more capacity - the things that matter to passengers.'

Notes to Editors
1.   The services comprising the TransPennine franchise currently form part of      
     the networks operated by Arriva Trains Northern and First North Western.
2.   The franchise has been developed by the SRA in consultation with five local 
     Passenger Transport Executives (PTEs) whose region it will serve:  Greater
     Manchester, Merseyside (Merseytravel), Tyne & Wear (Nexus), South Yorkshire 
     and West Yorkshire.
3.   FGK is a consortium of First Group plc and Keolis SA.  First Group plc
     currently operates the First Great Eastern, First Great Western and First 
     North Western franchises.  Keolis SA in consortium with Go-Ahead Group plc 
     as part of GOVIA, is the incumbent franchisee of South Central Trains and 
     Thameslink Rail.

             For further details contact the SRA Press Office on 
                        020 7654 6339/6387 /6234/6862

    Latest news and announcements from the SRA can be viewed on our website

                      This information is provided by RNS
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