South West Trains: Hong Kong firm MTR to help run rail franchise

A Hong Kong-based firm is to help run one of the biggest rail franchises in the UK, the government has announced.

MTR, which operates the Hong Kong Metro, has been awarded the franchise along with First Group to run South West Trains (SWT) for seven years.

Rail union RMT has reacted angrily saying MTR, which will hold a 30% share, “is set to make a killing at the British taxpayer’s expense”.

Stagecoach currently runs SWT services across south west England.

The firm said it had “submitted a strong bid” but was disappointed to be losing the franchise, which it has operated for two decades.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the new operators would oversee a £1.2bn investment to improve journeys for millions of train passengers.

It said the new franchise would add 22,000 extra seats into London Waterloo on every morning peak and 30,000 extra seats each evening peak.

A fleet of 90 new trains has also been promised, providing more space for passengers on Reading, Windsor and London routes.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the deal

marks a new era in joined up working between train operators and Network Rail

But Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said the government had

refused to consider the public sector option for a major rail franchise

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,