Coronavirus: 'Decisive action' taken on rail contracts

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image captionThe government said the rail network was "central to our national resilience"

Two train operators have been given new franchises by the government to "provide certainty" during the coronavirus pandemic.

Great Western Railway (GWR) has a new three-year deal, while Southeastern has been awarded a two-year contract.

The Department for Transport said it ensured "those who need to can continue to travel".

Independent watchdog Transport Focus said passengers would welcome the "clarity" it gave them.

Southeastern and GWR’s existing agreements were due to end on Tuesday.

The operators have been given the new contracts as "direct awards", rather than having to enter into a bidding process for them.

'Vital services'

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: "These are unprecedented times and the rail network is central to our national resilience.

"The deals guarantee vital services in the short term and tangible improvements in the long term."

The agreements will run alongside a package of emergency measures to support the industry announced last week.

Mr 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."

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said: "Passengers will welcome clarity on the operation of their services from April.

"While of course most are staying home at the moment, when life gets back to normal they will want to know that whoever is running things will focus on continuing to deliver improvements."

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