FirstGroup’s South Western Railway contract is extended for two years


Department of Transport extends FTSE 250 FirstGroup’s South Western Railway contract for a further two years

  • Contract now runs from May 2021 to May 2025 on existing terms
  • SWR connects London to cities such as Portsmouth, Bournemouth and Exeter

FirstGroup has been awarded a two-year extension by the UK Government for its South Western Railway (SWR) franchise.

The bus and rail company said the contract, which began in May 2021, now runs until May 2025 under current terms.

SWR, which connects London to cities such as Portsmouth, Bornemouth and Exeter, canceled hundreds of trains last week over the latest round of strikes.

Firstgroup will run the SWR franchise for another two years until May 2025

At least 233 services were canceled by SWR last Friday after the non-striking drivers refused to cross the picket line in support of striking colleagues from trade union Aslef, according to the newspaper.

Listed on the FTSE 250, FirstGroup operates three other rail concessions: Avanti West Coast, Great Western Railway (GWR) and TransPennine Express, plus a free passenger service, Hull Trains.

It also has a bus division, which operates about a fifth of the UK’s local bus services.

This week the company revealed it had agreed to buy Essex-based bus operator Ensignbus for an undisclosed sum.

The deal will provide “a number of synergies” and value-added growth opportunities in the business-to-business and bus dealer markets, as well as strengthen FirstGroup’s local commercial bus business in Essex, the group said.

FirstGroup CEO Graham Sutherland welcomed the renewal of the rail contract and pledged to ‘continue to improve the offering for the customer’.

“We are committed to working closely with government and our partners to deliver a successful rail network that provides vital connections for customers and communities along the SWR route,” he added.

Shares of the first group fell 0.9 percent to 111.6p in morning trading on Friday.