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Southeastern set to get rail franchise extension until November, Chris Grayling confirms

By Chris Britcher

The decision to award the new rail franchise for the majority of the county's train services has been delayed once again.

Initially due to begin last December, the government this week confirmed it was negotiating a "short-term extension" with train operator Govia to operate the service.

It owns and operates the Southeastern brand which provides the bulk of the county's train services.

Southeastern, operated by the firm Govia, will now run services until at least November - and possibly up until April 2020
Southeastern, operated by the firm Govia, will now run services until at least November - and possibly up until April 2020

The deal will now likely run until at least November - and could be extended well into 2020.

It comes just a day after one of the bidders for the franchise were ruled out by government chiefs.

Speaking in the House of Commons this week, transport minister Chris Grayling said: "With regards to the South Eastern franchise competition, my department is negotiating a short-term extension to the current franchise agreement with Govia while we make a decision on the competition.

Chris Grayling, transport minister, announced the delay in the Commons this week
Chris Grayling, transport minister, announced the delay in the Commons this week

"This will ensure continuity of services for passengers until November 10, 2019, with an option to extend the agreement further to April 2020."

In a letter to Ashford MP Damian Green, Andrew Jones, under secretary of state at the Department for Transport, responsible for the railways, added: "We are determined to ensure south eastern passengers promptly benefit from the improvements set out in the invitation to tender for the franchise, including better services and higher quality trains."

There are just two bidders left in the race to secure the franchise: South Eastern Holdings Ltd (a joint-venture of Abellio Transport Group, East Japan Railway and Mitsui & Co) and London & South East Passenger Rail Services Ltd (Govia).

There are just two bidders left in the race to secure the South Eastern franchise
There are just two bidders left in the race to secure the South Eastern franchise

Italian operator Trenitalia pulled out of the process in 2017.

And this week Stagecoach's bid was ruled out by the government for being "non-compliant". It centres around a commitment to pension payments. It was also ruled out of two other franchises it hoped to secure.

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