Transport firm First Group will operate
nearly all trains and buses in the Bristol and North Somerset
area after winning the race to secure the Greater Western rail
The firm has won a
10-year contract to run the Great Western line, which it
already operates, as well as the Bristol to Weston line, which
is currently run by Wessex Trains. It means First Group, which
already runs the majority of buses in the area, will be able
to co-ordinate timetables between inter-city trains, local
trains and buses.
Today, First said it would be
introducing a new direct line between Weston and Filton, and
an hourly service between Weston and Bristol.
also pledged to spend millions of pounds on new high-speed
trains, new ticket machines, upgrades to waiting rooms, an
additional 1,700 car parking spaces, and bicycle spaces at
It said the current timetable would stay
in place until December 2006.
First Group chief
executive Moir Lockhead said: "We are delighted to be awarded
both of these franchises and look forward to delivering the
improved performance, capacity, facilities and customer
benefits proposed in our winning bids. We are now the UK's
largest rail operator and will carry more than 260 million
passengers per annum."
First beat competition from
rival Stagecoach to secure the new Greater Western franchise,
which combines First Great Western, First Great Western Link
and the Wessex service. It will run for an initial seven years
with a probable extension of three years.
also won the Thameslink and Great Northern
First will pay the Government about £1.9
billion for the two new franchises, which it will take over
from April 1 next year, and will earn more than £1 billion per
It said it would be immediately investing £200
million to improve its fleet of trains.
campaigning group Transport 2000 said the announcement was the
"outcome it had lobbied for".
Spokesman David Redgewell
said: "We are very pleased with the outcome. We believe that
it will integrate the local trains and buses in Bristol and
"It will be the same company
operating local trains, buses and inter-city trains. It will
integrate timetables, and hopefully it will look at opening
the Portishead to Bristol line."
The announcement comes
just days after First revealed that rail fares are to be
increased by up to five per cent in the New Year for
passengers travelling to and from Bristol.
2, fares for trains between Temple Meads and London Paddington
will rise by up to 4.5 per cent - the third price increase
from the firm in a year.
In June, it increased some
fares by twice the rate of inflation, blaming rising fuel
costs, despite prices having already been pushed up by four
per cent in January.
Travelling on First buses also
became more expensive this week when fares rose by up to 22
per cent - the third round of increases in less than a
First blamed fuel and insurance costs for the