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Substantial package of benefits including £29million investment agreed for First Great Western passengers
Tuesday 26 February 2008
FIRSTGROUP PLC ("The Group")
After discussions with the Department for Transport (DfT) First Great Western (FGW), a subsidiary of FirstGroup plc, has today agreed a comprehensive package of passenger benefits to address the poor performance in relation to cancellations and the subsequent contravention of the Franchise Agreement.
The Group acknowledges that the performance of FGW has fallen short of its own standards and the expectations of passengers. We are committed to improving performance at FGW and taking the necessary action to ensure that cancellations and delays are minimised. Following discussions with the DfT, we have agreed to make additional investments to provide an enhanced service for passengers and agreed a plan to improve operational performance.
The Group has invested more than £200 million in FGW since the start of the franchise. Today's announcement commits a further £29 million to deliver customer service and performance improvements including:
* Increase rolling stock by leasing five additional Class 150 units to release Class 158 units for use in strengthening the Cardiff-Portsmouth service from May 2008 which will increase capacity by 40% on most services on this route.
* A further £7m investment to enhance Customer Information Systems (CIS) at stations. This will bring our total investment in CIS to £15 million and provide improved consistency of systems, coverage of more stations and a greater capacity to provide information during times of disruption.
* Additional investment of £5m on improvements to the London and Thames Valley fleet. A total of £6.1m will be invested in the London and Thames Valley fleet, including £1.1m already committed.
* A commitment to increase the amount of compensation available under the Passenger's Charter by 50 per cent for claims arising between 27 January 2009 and 26 January 2010. This is in addition to the doubling of the amount of compensation available to customers during 2008, announced in January.
* The provision of an additional 500,000 FGW tickets at the most discounted rates to popular destinations for off peak travel. We will actively participate in the study and development of fares simplification proposals involving single journey pricing.
* A £4m enhanced customer service training package for FGW's passenger facing employees.
In addition, we have developed and agreed a comprehensive plan to improve performance and minimise delays and cancellations, including:
* Recruit new drivers, guards and technicians to improve customer service and reliability. In addition, we have established a new performance directorate to improve management of disruption alongside Network Rail.
* We have developed a package of additional fleet and depot improvements to enhance reliability. To ensure resilient operating performance, we will provide an additional high speed train.
Commenting, Moir Lockhead, Chief Executive said:
"This package of measures demonstrates our commitment to improving performance and customer service in our First Great Western franchise (FGW). This additional investment of £29 million will directly benefit FGW passengers and underpins our plans to improve the quality and reliability of services we provide. We have already put in place actions to address performance at FGW and are encouraged that during January 2008 performance improved and cancellations were at their lowest level for 18 months, a trend which has continued during February. We are committed to the long-term development of railways in the UK and look forward to sustained performance improvements at FGW in line with our other three rail franchises.
All of the Group's operations in both the UK and North America are performing well and are trading in line with expectations. Furthermore, since the Q3 Interim Management Statement on 9 January 2008 we have continued to actively manage our fuel cost exposure by increasing the Group's fuel hedge position for 2008/09. We are now 100% hedged at approximately $76 per barrel for our total UK requirement and 100% hedged at approximately $85 per barrel for the 'at risk' portion of our North American requirement. For 2009/10 we are currently 10% hedged for both our UK and North American requirement at approximately $85
Moir Lockhead, Chief Executive
Nick Chevis, Finance Director
Rachael Borthwick, Group Corporate Communications Director
Tel: 020 7291 0512