England

Views sought on new rail franchise for south of England

Southern train
Image caption The new combined rail franchise for the south of England is due to start in September next year

Rail passengers are being asked for their views on a new franchise for train services in the south of England.

The franchise would be the biggest in the UK and would cover most of the First Capital Connect franchise, including the Thameslink line.

Services currently run by Southern would be added to the new combined franchise from 2015.

A single operator would run trains from Brighton to King's Lynn and Southampton to Ashford, with London at the centre.

The consultation also asks potential bidders how they would improve the experience of passengers.

Rail minister Theresa Villiers said the new franchise would be a key part of public transport in London and the south of England and a wide range of views were being sought.

"This consultation outlines a number of standards we expect any new operator to deliver as a matter of course, including improvements to stations, better ticket-buying facilities and passenger information and good levels of punctuality," she said.

The combined franchise is due to start in September 2013 and run for a minimum of seven years.

The consultation closes on 23 August.

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