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13th December, 2005

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT ANNOUNCES WINNER OF THAMESLINK/GN FRANCHISE

Tuesday 09:38

THE DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT today announced that First Group has been awarded the contract to run the Thameslink/GN franchise from 01 April 2006.

It will combine the current Thameslink and Great Northern franchises into one to operate services from Brighton, through London and on to Bedford and from London to Cambridge and Peterborough.

The franchise is being contracted with improvements to capacity and timing of services between Bedford and London.

Over £40m of investment in the first three years will:

* Improve the reliability and interior presentation of the trains

* Gate eleven additional stations, as a passenger security and revenue protection measure

* Enhance stations to provide new passenger information systems, shelters and CCTV

* Provide 600 additional car parking spaces

First Group has also committed to examine whether additional peak time services to Cambridge and Peterborough can be provided and will work alongside DfT to develop proposals further.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said:

"This award will deliver better services to passengers and give better value to the taxpayer.

"There will be increased capacity into London during peak times, enhanced facilities for passengers on board trains and at stations and reliability will improve."

There is provision in the franchise for an effective transfer to the Thameslink 2000 Programme, which was subject to a public inquiry.

The franchise contract is for up to 9 years. At the end of the fourth year the franchise will automatically continue for 2 years dependent on agreed performance targets being met, with a possible extension for up to 3 years to facilitate work on the Thameslink 2000 Programme.

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. The incumbent franchisees are Thameslink and WAGN

2. The five parties invited to bid for Thameslink/GN are National Express Group plc, First Group plc, Stagecoach Group, MTR/ Laing and DSB/EWS.

3. First Group has also been awarded the Greater Western franchise today, which will commence on 01 April 2006.

4. First Group will pay DfT a premium of £808m over the 9 year life of the franchise.

5. Documents relating to the Thameslink/GN franchise are on our website http://www.dft.gov.uk

Distributed on behalf of the Department for Transport by Government News Network East.

Client ref DfT33/E/05

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