Maria has welcomed the Government’s announcement of the award of the south western rail franchise to First Group and MTR. The new franchise, replacing the current operator South West Trains, is due to commence on 20 August 2017.  Maria said: “I congratulate First Group/MTR on their successful bid for the south western franchise. They have promised to deliver an increase in capacity during the morning and evening peaks and faster journey times, with real time travel information, as well as additional refurbished trains, with faster and more reliable on-board wifi.  I also welcome their plans for smart ticketing, flexible season tickets for part time commuters, and new lower fares for 16-18 year old, as well as an easier compensation process for when things go wrong.

“I met First Group, as well as Stagecoach, during the franchise bidding process, to make sure that they had a good understanding of what Basingstoke rail users want from the new franchise. I am encouraged by what they are promising to deliver but, as the new service is rolled out, I will not hesitate to hold them to account on all these undertakings.  I will be meeting the Managing Director of First Group Rail soon, for a briefing on the benefits their proposals will bring for Basingstoke rail users in particular.”