South West Trains passengers are being promised “more frequent and additional services” after the Department for Transport announced a new operator for the franchise.
From August a joint venture between FirstGroup and Hong Kong Metro operator MTR will replace Stagecoach as operators of the the busy commuter link.
MTR already runs the TfL Rail service operating out of Liverpool Street and will also be responsible for delivering Crossrail passenger services which will replace it from 2018.
The DfT claims the new franchise will deliver 22,000 extra seats into London Waterloo each morning and 30,000 extra seats each evening, as well as a fleet of 90 new trains and refurbishments to existing stock which will gain charging sockets and new seat covers.
Passengers are also being promised additional, up to date service and overcrowding information, automatic refunds for delays and improvements to stations.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “First MTR South Western Trains Limited will deliver the improvements that people tell us they want right across the South Western franchise area, from Bristol and Exeter, to Southampton and Portsmouth, to Reading, Windsor and London.
“We are delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century and this franchise will deliver real changes for passengers, who can look forward to modern trains, faster journeys and a more reliable service.”
FirstGroup Chief Executive Tim O’Toole said: “We are delighted that our partnership with MTR has been selected by the DfT to run the South Western rail franchise, a key part of the country’s railway network which millions of people rely on every day.
“Our successful bid will deliver the tangible improvements that customers and stakeholders have told us they want from this franchise.
“Passengers can look forward to new and better trains, more seats and services, quicker journey times, improved stations and more flexible fare options.”
Jeremy Long, CEO – European Business, MTR Corporation added: “MTR is known across the world for the excellent quality of its rail service.
“We look forward to working with FirstGroup to provide a best-in-class travel experience for passengers in London and the South West.
“Together we will deliver a major programme of upgrades, including improvements to both rail services and customer experience, for passengers travelling across the South Western network.”