In a real shock announcement the rail regulator has announced that Stagecoach has lost the South West Trains franchise to a consortium of Chinese owned MTR Group and First Group.
The consortium, known as First MTR will take over the franchise on the 20th of August, right in the middle of a the Waterloo improvement work and temporary Chessington branch closure.
Stagecoach has operated the South West Trains franchise since 1996.
First MTR in winning the franchise have announced £1.2bn investments, an extra 22,000 peak morning seats, 30,000 peak evening seats and 90 new trains; what is a unclear is how much of this was already in place under Stagecoach operation.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling called it “great news” stating “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 RMT union responded to the news of a part Chinese owned franchise claiming that they are making “a killing at the British taxpayers’ expense”.
MTR operates the Hong Kong Metro and will be the operator of Crossrail 1 when it launches.
First MTR has been granted the franchise for 7 years, taking operation of all routes in to Waterloo (including the Chessington Branch) in to 2024.