12:44PM, Monday 30 March 2020
Vital train services in the area will continue to run thanks to an agreement between the Government and rail firms.
The new deals for both Great Western Railway (GWR) and Southeastern will see critical routes remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Services should only be used by people who need to travel and cannot work from home.
These agreements will run concurrently with the recently-announced Emergency Measures Agreements, which will see the Government temporarily take on the revenue and cost risk associated with individual franchises.
These measures will ensure that ‘key services will keep running across the UK’.
GWR, owned by FirstGroup, has been awarded a Direct Award for three years, extendable to four.
The Great Western franchise provides services from London to the West and commuter services in the Thames Valley.
The Government has also said that in the longer-term, passengers will benefit from improvements including increased capacity at peak times and more front-line staff.
Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “We are taking decisive action across the board to ensure vital rail services continue, allowing those people who cannot work at home to get to work - particularly our NHS, emergency services and other vital industries.
“These contracts will keep services running in the short-term but are positive news for passengers in the future, focusing on more reliable services, extra capacity and improvements to the stations they use every day.
“These are unprecedented times and the rail network is central to our national resilience.”
GWR interim managing director Matthew Golton said: “We are pleased that the Government has taken the decision to provide long-term stability for our customers and staff.
"Right now, our priority remains to run services that can be relied on at this time of uncertainty, providing essential transport for key workers to get to and from work.
“However, with time and the measures set out by Government, this national emergency will pass and we must set our sights towards rebuilding our communities and helping customers return to the railway.”
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