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Monday 12 May, 2003

Strategic Rail Auth

South Central contract

Strategic Rail Authority
12 May 2003

                                                                12 May, 2003

    Franchise Deal Seals £1bn Improvements for South Central's Passengers

The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) today announced that it has signed a new
franchise agreement with incumbent franchisee GOVIA Ltd to deliver major
improvements on South Central Trains.

The contract, to operate busy commuter routes between London and Surrey, Sussex
and the South Coast, will deliver over £1 billion of improvements:

•  £856m investment in 700 new 'Electrostar' carriages to replace slam door 
   stock and increase passenger capacity, with introduction ongoing and to be 
   completed during 2005.

•  £50m investment in 36 new 'Turbostar' diesel carriages scheduled for mid 2004 
   to replace slam door diesel stock, plus a further 6 Turbostar vehicles 
   scheduled during 2005 to enhance services

•  Over £100m investment in depots at six sites to support the new trains

•  £20m extensive rolling programme of refurbishment for Class 455 (metro) 
   trains, improving comfort and reliability of  all 184 carriages by 2006

•  New, hourly through services between Uckfield and London Bridge from 2004;  
   and between Ashford and Brighton from late 2005

•  Practical measures to achieve continuing improvement in performance, and an 
   improved passenger compensation regime

The new franchise will commence on May 25th, and will run to December 2009 with 
an SRA option to terminate on 12 months notice expiring at any point after 
May 2008.

SRA Chairman, Richard Bowker, said:

'This deal is about the future not the past.  It will deliver investment in
trains and other improvements of over £1 billion and, together with the £1
billion upgrade to the power supply in the South of England, also being
implemented, will transform South Central into a modern railway fit for the 21st
Century.  GOVIA will concentrate on what matters to passengers - new trains, new
services, better performance and more capacity.'

Notes to Editors

1. The South Central franchise operates primarily commuter services in the 
   South London area and in Surrey and Sussex, as well as services to Gatwick 
   and Brighton and South Coast services between Southampton, Brighton, Hastings
   and Ashford.

2. GOVIA is a subsidiary of the Go-Ahead Group plc, operated in consortium with 
   Keolis SA.  GOVIA is the incumbent franchisee of South Central Trains, and 
   also operates the Thameslink Rail franchise.  Go-Ahead Group operates the
   Thames Trains franchise.

3. The new franchise agreement expires in December 2009, but subject to the 
   absolute right of the SRA to terminate the franchise 5 years after the 
   commencement of the new franchise  upon 12 months' prior notice being given 
   to GOVIA. This element is included to enable earlier competitive re-tendering 
   of the franchise if circumstances are appropriate.

4. A new approach on South Central was announced in principle by the SRA on 
   29 August 2002.  This approach, confirmed by the signing of this new 
   franchise agreement, involves a shorter franchise than previously 
   anticipated, reflecting the SRA's new role in leading the delivery of 
   infrastructure upgrades.

5. The SRA is separately commencing timetable planning work, consistent with its 
   Capacity Utilisation Policy, aimed at making best use of capacity on South 
   Central's network in 2004/05.  The SRA will be revisiting plans for
   infrastructure upgrades to further increase capacity once this work is 
   complete.  A major £1bn infrastructure programme to upgrade the Southern 
   Region power supply is already underway.

6. Improvements to stations and facilities for disabled passengers will be taken 
   forward through national programmes separate from this franchise agreement 
   and will be announced at a later date.

7. The refurbishment programme for Class 455s was set out in detail in a South 
   Central press release earlier this year.

            For further details contact the SRA Press Office on: 
                    020 7654 6339/ 6387 /6234/ 6862
                Or visit the website at

                      This information is provided by RNS
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