All aboard: Transport companies get to grips with government's rail plans

Caitlin Morrison
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Britain Faced With Crippling Rail Strike
The government is planning to upgrade the UK's railways (Source: Getty)

The government has today unveiled plans to expand Britain's rail network, which includes possibly restoring old services cut in the 60s and 70s.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said he wants to find transport projects that will help to ease congested commuter routes and meet future demand, in a bid to address capacity issues and boost housing opportunities.

The plans lifted transport firms’ share prices slightly - Stagecoach was up 1.4 per cent in early trading, while FirstGroup rose 0.64 per cent.

Stagecoach boss Martin Griffiths said the company has “championed a more integrated and customer-focused railway over many years and we are encouraged by the positive new direction for Britain's railway”.

"We welcome the Secretary of State's clear statement of intent to seek to negotiate new terms for the East Coast franchise with Virgin Trains East Coast and we are hopeful of reaching an agreement through to 2020 within the next few months,” he added.

"We look forward to exploring further with the DfT its vision for the franchise from 2020, leveraging our knowledge and expertise from the South Western Railway deep alliance and our longstanding interest in greater vertical integration of UK rail.

"We are excited by the potential to be a trailblazer for a new regional partnership railway on East Coast, building on the huge transformation we have already delivered in customer experience and benefits for local communities on the route.

With a strong commitment to partnership working by all industry stakeholders, we see a successful future for the UK rail market as a whole which will benefit customers, communities and the country.

Meanwhile, FirstGroup noted that today also marks the beginning of a DfT consultation on how rail services are delivered on the Great Western Railway (GWR) network. "As the current operator, we will work with the DfT to support this," the company said.

Tim O'Toole, FirstGroup's chief executive, added: "We are pleased that our strong track record at GWR is recognised, and that the DfT intend to extend the franchise and negotiate a further direct award lasting at least two years. A period of detailed negotiation will now follow, but this opportunity will create further stability on the Great Western route as our experienced team continue their work with our partners to transform a key part of the country’s transport infrastructure."

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