Aberdeen-based bus and rail giant FirstGroup plc said on Monday it has signed a “Direct Award” with the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) to continue operating Great Western Railway (GWR) services in England from April 1, 2020.
“The agreement runs until 31 March 2023, with a possible extension of up to one further year at the DfT’s discretion,” said FirstGroup.
Great Western Railway (GWR) operates across South Wales, England’s West Country, the Cotswolds and large parts of Southern England.
“The agreement ensures continuity of operation and will run concurrently with the DfT’s previously announced Emergency Measures Agreement (EMA) for at least the first six months,” added FirstGroup.
“FirstGroup’s experience of managing the route over many years will be crucial to restoring the service to full operation once the immediate crisis has abated, and will facilitate the ongoing transformation of GWR, through the biggest changes to the network in a generation.
“Today’s announcement provides continuity for customers, employees and other stakeholders beyond the period of emergency measures currently proposed, as well as an appropriate balance of risk and reward between FirstGroup and the Government, supported by a contractual Forecast Revenue Mechanism (FRM) which eliminates the majority of the revenue risk.”
FirstGroup CEO Matthew Gregory said: “Whilst the immediate focus of GWR is to ensure that key workers, vital to the country’s response to coronavirus, can get to where they need to go, continuity of rail services will also be critical to a restoration of normal life when the present uncertain and difficult situation is overcome.
“In the longer term this new agreement will mean that customers can return to rail as their preferred choice of travel; with more seats, more services, better stations and more flexible ticketing to help reconnect the people and communities we serve.”