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Thursday 29 August, 2002

Strategic Rail Auth

SRA Announces South Central

Strategic Rail Authority
29 August 2002


                                                                29 August 2002



          SRA Announces New Approach for South Central Franchise



The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) today announced that agreement in principle
had been reached with existing franchisee GOVIA Ltd on a new approach for the
South Central franchise, to secure the delivery of major improvements for its
passengers.

A franchise agreement of up to seven years to be negotiated between the SRA and
GOVIA will deliver new trains, station upgrades and information systems.  A
separate substantial programme of track and signalling improvements will now be
led by the SRA to ensure effective completion as early as possible.  It is
intended that, taken together, these elements will deliver substantially the
same benefits as those originally planned for the 20-year franchise.

SRA Chairman, Richard Bowker, said:

'Passengers on these busy routes can now look forward to the improved
performance and better journey experiences that they have been promised. 
Today's agreement represents the grown-up, intelligent way of sorting things out
that passengers expect from the rail industry - they want the problems to be
fixed and the services to which they are entitled to be delivered.  This
agreement achieves that.'


Notes to Editors

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


2.      It is intended that the new franchise agreement, the framework for which
was announced today, will expire in December 2009 - but subject to the absolute
right of the SRA to terminate the franchise at any point from December 2007,
subject to 12 months prior notice being given to GOVIA.  This element is
included as a safeguard for taxpayers.


3.      The Shadow Strategic Rail Authority had previously (24 October 2000)
announced GOVIA as preferred bidder for a proposed 20 year South Central
franchise.


4.      GOVIA took over the current seven year South Central franchise in August
2001.  It expires in May 2003.


5.      GOVIA is a subsidiary of the Go-Ahead Group plc, operated in consortium
with Keolis SA.  GOVIA also holds the Thameslink Rail franchise, and Go-Ahead
Group


6.      Separately, the SRA stated its firm intention to negotiate a new
franchise for Thameslink to December 2009, similarly subject to the absolute
right of the SRA to terminate the franchise at any point from December 2007,
subject to 12 months prior notice being given to GOVIA.


7.      The SRA is also in negotiations with Go-Ahead Group regarding a two-year
extension to its existing Thames Trains franchise.




                            Media Enquiries:

               SRA Press Office 020 7654 6339 /6387 /6234 /6294


       Latest news and announcements from the SRA can be viewed on our
                         website www.sra.gov.uk


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