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First on Track With New Train Franchises
Monday 3 April 2006
FirstGroup plc today officially launches its two new rail franchises " the Greater Western operated by First Great Western and First Capital Connect. These additions mean that FirstGroup plc is now the largest rail operator in the UK and will carry more than 250 million passengers per year.
First is the only rail operator running every type of passenger train service in the UK, from high speed intercity trains and overnight sleepers to local branch lines, regional and commuter services, open access and freight services. First Great Western will operate services across the South and West of England, and South Wales, for seven years with a possible three year extension. First Capital Connect provides fast and frequent cross London rail services from Bedford through to Brighton and from Kings Cross to Kings Lynn.
Awarded to FirstGroup in December 2005 by the Department of Transport, the new franchises began operation at 02.00 on 1 April 2006. The Greater Western franchise includes the networks covered by the former First Great Western, First Great Western Link and Wessex Trains. First Capital Connect brings together the Great Northern and Thameslink franchises for six years with a possible extension of up to three years
First Great Western
Moir Lockhead, Chief Executive, First, said: "Todays launch of the Greater Western franchise heralds the start of a £200 million investment programme of continuous improvement. It will deliver significant customer benefits including increased capacity, safety and service as well as fleet developments and plans for improved transport integration. We look forward to delivering these benefits over the next seven years and are proud to be serving customers across the new enlarged franchise area.'
To mark the beginning of celebrations today, a concept for a new look livery for the High Speed Train fleet was unveiled. The interiors will be redesigned in the coming months with a new buffet area, new Standard Class seats, new leather First Class seats and a complete refurbishment of toilets throughout the train. Improved engines will give better performance and reliability and will be more environmentally friendly.
The new franchise also means station improvements including new ticket machines, better facilities, improved waiting rooms and toilets, new CCTV and Help Points, plus additional 1,700 car parking spaces and more cycle parks.
Official launch celebrations began at Londons Paddington station this morning with entertainment, bucks fizz and cake for commuters during rush hour. Activities including bands, entertainers " and more cakes " were repeated at 33 stations across the new franchise area to involve customers throughout the day. Similar activity was also staged at stations on April 1.
Moir Lockhead, Chief Executive, of First; Sir Chay Blyth, non executive Chairman of First Great Western Board of Directors; and Alison Forster, Managing Director of First Great Western, unveiled the new livery concept at Paddington station. The train carrying showing the new livery then travelled across the network - from Paddington to Penzance " to involve everyone in the new franchise.'
Alison Forster, Managing Director of First Great Western, said: "Today is a momentous day for all of us at First Great Western and we are proud to be given the opportunity to run the regions railways into the next decade, serving customers across the region. We have exciting plans for the new franchise and importantly we have the drive, experience and commitment to make it a success.
"We want to set new standards for customer service, creating a benchmark by which all rail travel is judged. Many changes will be realised over the first two years of the seven year franchise and customers will see the step change in standards and service.'
First Capital Connect
Moir Lockhead, Chief Executive of FirstGroup plc, said: "First Capital Connect sees the creation of a new franchise and presents us with an opportunity to develop many areas of the business to deliver real, tangible benefits for our customers, across the board. We want to deliver a step change in our customers experience. We know there are many improvements to be made. Our key objective is to be a customer-facing organisation, committed to improving the whole journey experience, from customer information, service delivery at stations, reliability and punctuality improvements through to investment in ticketing and revenue protection.'
Elaine Holt, Managing Director of First Capital Connect, said: "We are investing £52 million in the franchise, the majority in the first three years, in a programme of action including improvements to stations and trains, security and safety, and importantly investment in staff. It is through them that we can deliver the levels of customer service that will improve your journey experience.'
First Capital Connect will introduce new cleaning standards and station maintenance, bring the engineering of our trains ‘in house for the Thameslink part of the business and make investments in revenue protection activities. Every train will be deep cleaned within six months, and every Thameslink train will be internally refurbished within three years.
First Capital Connect is also investing in customer improvements for journey planning, including improvements to the website, www.firstcapitalconnect.co.uk, and ensuring customers can gain access to information at stations with a series of new measures including new electronic train information displays at 17 stations.
First Capital Connect will be more visible at stations; there will be more revenue protection staff, two British Transport Police (BTP) sergeants, three BTP constables and 24 Police Community Support Officers. We will appoint a Head of Security and also create a new ‘Control Centre to monitor CCTV from a single, central location. Within the first years of the franchise, First Capital Connect will install 167 new CCTV cameras at 24 stations, 78 more Help Points at 36 stations and automatic ticket gates in at least 11 stations.
Improvements will not stop at the station; First Capital Connect will improve the quality of on board announcements, the quality of customer service from staff, as well as improving on board facilities. We will also be introducing improvements to on board ticketing options so that we can better manage ticketless journeys.
Staff at both franchises are now wearing new uniforms. Customer-facing teams now have a choice of colours and stylish designs to wear and the uniform has been developed following trials among staff to make sure they are practical as well as smart and stylish.