First Capital Connect handed six-month extension

The Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded First Capital Connect (FCC) a six-month extension to continue operating Thameslink services in and around the capital.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the decision to extend the current franchise was made to guarantee the completion of the £6.5 billion Thameslink Programme.

McLoughlin said the direct award – the fourth since the DfT published its revised franchising schedule in 2013 – would “bridge the gap” ahead of the new Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern (TSGN) franchise starting in September.

The DfT published an invitation to tender for the seven-year TSGN franchise in September last year, indicating that it intends to name the new operator in May 2014.

McLoughlin said: “We have embarked on one of the biggest programmes of rail modernisation ever with more than £38 billion being spent to maintain and improve our railways over the next five years.

“This contract is a major step towards boosting services for the 150,000 passengers who use these routes every day as well as the national and regional economies.

“The new contract with FCC represents the best deal for passengers and taxpayers. It ensures the continuity of the existing service and guarantees the completion of the ongoing Thameslink Programme.”