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Tuesday 04 November, 2003

Strategic Rail Auth

Prefferred bidder announced

Strategic Rail Authority
04 November 2003

            Preferred Bidder Announced for New Thames Trains Franchise

The SRA today announced that it has selected FirstGroup as the preferred bidder 
for the new Thames Trains franchise.  The existing franchise, awarded in 
September 1996, expires on 31 March 2004.  The new franchise will run from 
1 April 2004 to 31 March 2006.

The announcement follows extensive discussions between the Authority and the 
two parties invited to bid for the franchise (incumbent operator Go-Ahead Group, 
and FirstGroup).

The SRA has reduced the bids down to two options from FirstGroup and expects to 
be able to confirm, by December, which of these options will be selected 
following further discussions.

Notes to Editors

1.  The SRA has been in discussions with Go-Ahead Group regarding a two-year 
    extension to its current franchise since Summer 2002.  In September 2002 it 
    separately received an unsolicited proposition from FirstGroup to combine
    Thames services with Great Western services from 2004.

2.  The SRA invited FirstGroup and Go-Ahead Group to submit proposals for a two 
    year franchise on 10 April 2003, having received a Section 26 direction from 
    the Secretary of State for Transport, enabling negotiations to start.

3.  Plans for a Greater Western franchise, announced by the SRA on 6 November 
    2002 following extensive local consultation, will combine the existing Great 
    Western, Thames Trains and Wessex Trains franchises into one operation.  It 
    is scheduled to commence in early 2006, following a competition to select a 

4.  Thames Trains operates services throughout the Thames Valley, the Kennet 
    Valley, the Cotswolds, up to Stratford-upon-Avon, and on the North Downs 
    line between Reading and Gatwick Airport.

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

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