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 .
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.”