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VIDEO REPORT: major improvements promised

South West Trains will be taken over by its rival operator First Group later this year.

It is the second largest franchise in the country with 650,000 passengers using it every day.

Chinese company MTR will provide a £1.2 billion pound investment to the franchise.

750 new carriages and faster journey times are promised.

It's hoped this means good news for passengers.

Our Transport Correspondent Mike Pearse reports.

Credit: PA

Mike spoke to Steve Montgomery from First Group, the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and Anthony Smith from Transport Focus.

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Transport Secretary: New owners "great news for rail passengers"

Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport Credit: Library picture

The Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, has commented on today's announcement:

This is great news for rail passengers. FirstGroup and MTR will deliver the improvements that people tell us they want right across the South Western franchise area, from Southampton and Portsmouth, to Bristol and Exeter, 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.”

– Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport

Stagecoach 'disappointed' at losing SWT franchise

The Stagecoach Group has said it is 'disappointed' that it has been unsuccessful in its bid for the new South Western rail franchise.

The company lost the franchise, due to commence in summer 2017, to Great Western Railway's owner First Group.

The company has released the following statement:

We are proud to have operated the network under the South West Trains brand for more than 20 years and we are disappointed that we have been unsuccessful in our bid for the new franchise.

Over the past two decades, we have delivered real improvements for our customers right across the network. That success has been built on fantastic people, detailed knowledge of the business and strong relationships with our stakeholders and railway partners. But we have never thought our job was finished.

We believe we submitted a strong bid for the new South Western franchise. It offered a transformation in the travel experience for our customers, more investment to help the railway support the communities and economy of the south-west, as well as a substantial and deliverable financial benefit to taxpayers to help fund better public services.

We will be seeking detailed feedback from the Department for Transport on the various elements of our bid.

I would like to thank all of our employees and partners who have been involved in delivering our vision for the railway in the south-west over the past two decades as well as those who contributed to our strong bid for the new franchise. I know they share our disappointment in the result. Nevertheless, we will continue to work hard on our part to deliver a professional service and meet our obligations in the final months of our current franchise."

– Martin Griffiths, Chief Executive, Stagecoach Group
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