Strategic Rail Authority
3rd December 2003


4th 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 franchisee.
  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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