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GWR retains West Country commuter train contract

·2-min read
First Group train operator GWR will operate trains to the West Country from London Paddington for at least the next three years  (GWR)
First Group train operator GWR will operate trains to the West Country from London Paddington for at least the next three years (GWR)

First Group has retained the contract to keep running trains between London and the South West through its rail arm GWR for at least the next three years.

GWR runs key commuter services from London to the West Country via the Reading and Taunton lines departing from London Paddington and the Night Riviera sleeper service between London and Penzance .

The company has been awarded the contract to 2005 by the Department for Transport (DfT) with an option to extend the business by up to three further years to 2028.

Wendy Morton, Minister for Rail, said: “During the pandemic, GWR was instrumental in keeping critical services moving and this new contract will see it continue to deliver our ambitious plan for rail and provide a fantastic service for passengers.”

Graham Sutherland, FirstGroup CEO, said the contract would put GWR in “a strong position to help deliver the UK’s economic, decarbonisation and levelling up agendas” and that GWR looked forward to “providing vital connections for our customers as the recovery continues to build.”

First Group also reported full year results to 26 March including revenues of £5.5 billion.

However, operating profit was down £5.5 million for the year from £112.2 million to £106.7 million taking into account the disposal of its US bus businesses during the period, including the $3.3 billion (£2.7 billion) sale of First Student and First Transit to Swedish investment group EQT, and the $172 million sale of iconic North American intercity coach business Greyhound to German operator FlixMobility.

The company said it had de-risked its “balance sheet” by selling off the US businesss and that its UK pension deficit payments were no longer required, although it addressed potential oncoming economic issues and said that some uncertainty” remains around the pace of recovery “in light of the pandemic and broader economic backdrop.”

First Group revealed last week that it had been approached for a £1.2 billion takeover bid from US private equity company I Squared, but had rejected the offer.

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