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Tuesday 09 September, 2003

Strategic Rail Auth

Rail Franchise Progress

Strategic Rail Authority
09 September 2003

                                                                9 September 2003

                     Further Progress on Rail Franchises

The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) today announced plans to extend four rail 
franchises with expiry dates next year.

The Authority is to commence formal negotiations with National Express Group PLC
to extend existing franchises for Wessex Trains, Silverlink and the Great
Northern part of WAGN; and with GOVIA Ltd to extend its existing Thameslink
franchise.

All of the extensions will be for approximately two years and are subject to
agreeing the best possible deal for passengers and taxpayers.

Nicola Shaw, the SRA's newly appointed Managing Director, Operations, said:

'This is a further step to ensure the proper delivery of Britain's Railway.  Our
plan is quite simple: continued progress for passengers on these routes.  These
extension negotiations play an important role in shaping the franchises of the
future.'


Notes to Editors

1.      The Wessex Trains franchise expires on 31 March 2004.  As announced in 
        November 2002, from 2006 services operated under the franchise will be 
        combined with Great Western and Thames Trains services to form part of a 
        new 'Greater Western' franchise.

2.      The Silverlink franchise expires on 16 October 2004. The franchise 
        extension will play an important part in delivering the SRA's West Coast 
        Mainline Strategy, published in June 2003.

3.      The Thameslink franchise expires on 31 March 2004.  The extension will 
        provide continuity during a period of major works that will enable 
        Channel Tunnel Rail Link services to operate into London St Pancras.

4.      The West Anglia Great Northern (WAGN) franchise expires on 31 March 
        2004.  West Anglia services will be operated under the new Greater 
        Anglia franchise upon its commencement, planned for 1 April 2004.

5.      The Thameslink 2000 infrastructure project will deliver significantly 
        enhanced capacity through central London.  The SRA and Network Rail are 
        currently seeking to resolve issues relating to the Transport & Works 
        Act Order application for this project, to enable it to proceed as 
        quickly as possible.

For further details contact the SRA Press Office on 020 7654 6339/ 6387 /6234/6862
                     Or visit the website at www.sra.gov.uk


                      This information is provided by RNS
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