1. ITV Report

Hong Kong firm to help run one of UK's biggest rail franchises

Stagecoach have operated South West Trains for 21 years. Credit: PA

The Government has announced that one of the biggest rail franchises in the country is to be operated by a Hong Kong-based company.

MTR will run South West Trains (SWT) with the giant First Group for seven years from August.

First MTR, who own the Hong Kong metro, will take over from Stagecoach, which currently runs SWT services across south east England to and from London Waterloo.

The RMT has criticised the Government over the new operator. Credit: PA

Rail union RMT have slammed the move saying the company MTR is set to make "a killing at the British taxpayers' expense".

Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) 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".

"RMT is deeply concerned at exactly what this announcement will mean for our members, these crucial rail services and the safety of the travelling public.

The Government says new trains will provide more space for passengers. Credit: PA

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said it was more "great news" for rail passengers.

He said: "First MTR South Western Trains Limited will deliver the improvements that people tell us they want right across the South Western franchise area.

"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."

The Government said the new operators will oversee a £1.2 billion investment to improve journeys for millions of train passengers.

The new franchise will see 22,000 extra seats into London Waterloo each morning peak and 30,000 extra seats each evening peak.

MTR operate the metro in Hong Kong. Credit: AP Photo/Vincent Yu

There will also be a fleet of 90 new trains, which the Government say will provide more space for passengers on Reading, Windsor and London routes.

Current operator Stagecoach has operated the trains for 21 years, it was the first private company to run trains.

Stagecoach said it was disappointed that it had been unsuccessful in its bid for the new franchise.

Group chief executive Martin Griffiths said: "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."