Local rail users welcome new train operator

A local rail users group has hailed the news that South West Trains (SWT) will be operated under a new seven-year franchise.

Hong Kong Metro operators MTR will join First Group to take over SWT services to Waterloo that are currently run by Stagecoach. The new company – First MTR South Western Trains Limited- will see the Chinese operator hold a 30% stake.

Denis Fryer of South Hampshire Rail Users Group (SHRUG) told Eastleigh News:

“This is great news. The South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group has been campaigning for a change of operator on SWT for 20 years. Stagecoach has run the franchise to maximise profits without regard to the interests of rail users.

“At the beginning of the year SWT became the first franchise to charge higher fares at popular travel times on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.”

But the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) who have campaigned for the re-nationlisation of the rail network slammed the deal.

General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“Once again the Government have refused to consider the public sector option for a major rail franchise and instead it’s a foreign state operator, in this case the Chinese state, which is set to make a killing at the British taxpayers expense.”

“It is frankly ludicrous that the Tories are continuing with the ‘any state but the British state’ policy which has plundered our railways for ‎over two decades.”

The Department of Transport issued said the new company would invest £1.2 billion into the network so that passengers will enjoy “more space, more services and faster journeys.”

In a statement Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:

“First MTR South Western Trains Limited will deliver the improvements that people tell us they want right across the South Western franchise area, from Bristol and Exeter, to Southampton and Portsmouth, to Reading, Windsor and London.

“We are delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century and this franchise will deliver real changes for passengers, who can look forward to modern trains, faster journeys and a more reliable service.”