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First Group will run the Great Western Railway franchise until at least June 2021 under the Emergency Measures Agreement.
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TRENITALIA and First Group have joined forces to bid for two British passenger rail franchises - East Midlands and West Coast Partnership - which are due to be awarded in 2018.

The duo has submitted an expression of interest to the Department for Transport (DfT) for East Midlands as First Trenitalia East Midlands Rail in which First Group has a 70% holding and Trenitalia the remaining 30%. The East Midlands franchise, which is currently operated by Stagecoach, comprises inter-city services linking London St Pancras with Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield as well regional services to towns including Skegness, Grimsby, Worksop and Crewe, plus the Norwich - Liverpool route. [From Richard Buckby]
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TRANSPORT bosses have been urged to come clean about overcrowding on Scotland's failing railways. Labour warned passengers were being kept in the dark over the scale of jammed ScotRail services.
It challenged Dutch-owned operator Abellio and quango Transport Scotland to publish statistics on clogged routes.
Under the £6 billion franchise ScotRail has to compile capacity reports on the flagship Glasgow-Edinburgh line every four weeks and audit passenger numbers across the network twice a year. But the data is not released to the fare-paying public, unlike south of the Border where the 10 most overcrowded peak services are regularly published.
It comes amid a growing political row over the deal with Abellio making £1 million a month from the franchise since taking over from First Group last year.
ScotRail trains on a third of routes are late more often than they are on time, despite rising fares.
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A new budget rail service between Edinburgh and London has been given the green light by the Rail Regulator.
First Group will run five services a day, with stops at Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth, from no later than 2021.
It claimed average fares would be less than £25 and there will be only one class of carriage as First Group looks to compete with budget airlines.
Stagecoach, which operates Virgin Trains East Coast on the same rails, has warned its revenue will be harmed.
The open access agreement is due to last for 10 years.
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First Group has announced plans for a new open access intercity rail service between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh. The operator has submitted a track access rights application to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) to run a new service on the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh, via Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth.
First Group, which already runs open access services through First Hull Trains, hopes to introduce its new offering from 2018 and has said the service will be served by a fleet of new trains. [From Richard Buckby]
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Kings Cross: First Hull Trains Adelante unit 180113 alongside an HST at Kings Cross on 30 July 2014.
Bill Roberton 30/07/2014

Peterborough: A Kings Cross - Hull express service speeding north through Peterborough station on 11 August 2011, formed by First Hull Trains unit 180111.
Ken Strachan 11/08/2011

Hull: A Hull Trains class 222 DMU glides into its home station on 23 April 2009 with the mid-morning service from Kings Cross.
John Furnevel 23/04/2009

Serco has been awarded the contract to run the Caledonian sleeper train service between Scotland and London.
The company will take over the franchise from Aberdeen-based First Group.
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Inverkeithing: The Aberdeen portion of the Caledonian Sleeper calls at Inverkeithing at 00.12 on 25 May on its way to Edinburgh Waverley, where it will combine with the Inverness and Fort William portions for the onward journey to London Euston.
Bill Roberton 25/05/2011

Preston: The northbound Highland Sleeper pauses at Preston platform 4 on 21 April 2009 with First ScotRail liveried 90024 at the helm. The departure from Preston is scheduled for 0052 hrs and the train contains through carriages for Aberdeen, Fort William and Inverness.
John McIntyre 21/04/2009

Dulnain Viaduct [Carrbridge]: The Inverness portion of the Caledonian Sleeper catches the morning sun as it crosses Carrbridge Viaduct over the River Dulnain on 12 September 2004.
John Furnevel 12/09/2004

It sounded too good to be true, and perhaps we have now had confirmation it was. First Group appeared to have won the West Coast Main Line franchise by offering the government much more than any firm had paid before for a service. The deal would have seen the company pay back more than five times as much as Virgin paid for the previous deal. It was an offer then that came in the middle of a recession to a government in need of every penny. The fall-out from today now suggests it was as unrealistic as it was tempting.
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The rail network north of Perth is 'unfit for purpose', according to Scotland's Chambers of Commerce.

The business group was responding to the Scottish government's consultation on the next railway franchise.

It said links to the Highlands and north-east should be improved, including direct services across the border without having to change trains at Edinburgh.

The current First Scotrail franchise ends in November 2014.

First Group has operated all domestic rail services in Scotland and sleeper services to London since 2004.

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SCOTRAIL could be shut down on Sundays as a dispute over train driver shortages escalates.
Aslef the union which represents nearly 1000 ScotRail drivers said it expected to ballot for industrial action amid mounting frustration with the way the company had handled an ongoing row which, it says, has left staff having to work around 10 additional shifts a year.
Kevin Lindsay, the unions officer for Scotland, said that, if members voted in favour, drivers could refuse to work Sunday shifts as early as mid-January, leading to widespread train cancellations.
Mr Lindsay said the action was being considered to try to force ScotRail back round the table.
The union last week announced that drivers were refusing to work additional shifts, an action which saw dozens of trains cancelled on Sunday.
If there was a ballot, it would mean drivers not doing any Sunday shifts
At the moment drivers are not volunteering to work additional Sundays. But if there was a ballot, it would mean drivers not doing any Sunday shifts. It would see ScotRail shut down on a Sunday. Its not the route we want to go down. We want to talk to them, Mr Lindsay said.
I anticipate that, following tonights meeting, a ballot will be put in place and ScotRail will be given formal notice of that in December. That would mean any industrial action taking place by mid-January or early February.
However, the company reacted angrily to the claims, insisting an offer of talks to the union 10 days ago had not been received no response, and that phone calls to union officials had also brought no reply. A spokesman said the door was open for talks.
The dispute centres on a deal struck in 2008 which increased the number of days off for train drivers, who are paid 37,700 a year, effectively ensuring they work a four-day week, plus one in every three Sundays.
Aslef claims this left ScotRail, which is operated by First Group, with around 50 fewer drivers than it needed and that the company had been relying on institutionalised overtime to make up the shortfall.
The claims have been rejected by ScotRail, which says it has only 27 current vacancies and is training 77 drivers. A spokesman said: It is disappointing that Aslef has withdrawn from a rest day working agreement.
It is also disappointing that the union has not even responded to our letter of a week ago or answered our telephone calls yet took unofficial action on Sunday.
We are at a loss as to why we are in this position.

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The head of First Group's bus and rail divisions Mary Grant (nee Dickson) is stepping down in the first big managerial shake-up by the public transport operator since the arrival of new chief executive Tim O'Toole.

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Haymarket MPD: Transport Minister Tavish Scott unveils a commemorative plaque marking the official opening of new facilities at Haymarket depot on 13 February 2007. First ScotRail's Managing Director Mary Dickson looks on.
Ian Watson, Studio Scotland 13/02/2007

Nairn: Mary Dickson, Managing Director of First ScotRail.
Phil Downie / First ScotRail 9/7/2005

A Scottish-based transport firm has said the recent severe weather has cost it 7m.
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Dalgety Bay: 170 424 heads north at Dalgety Bay on 20 December 2010.
Bill Roberton 20/12/2010

Bathgate: The terminating 12.48 ex-Edinburgh Waverley runs into platform 1 at Bathgate on 14 December 2010.
John Furnevel 14/12/2010

Hairmyres: Winter scene near Hairmyres on the morning of December 2nd 2010 as 156439 heads towards Thorntonhall.
John Steven 02/12/2010

UK - FRANCE Europorte, a wholly owned subsidiary of Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel, have purchased First GBRf, formerly GB Railfreight and the third largest rail freight company in the country, from previous owners First Group plc.

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Dalgety Bay: GBRf 66726 with Aberdeen - Harwich tanks passing through Dalgety Bay on 11 June 2008. This can best be described as an occasional service.
Bill Roberton 11/06/2008

Cardross: GBRf 66728 and a practise load of two class 325 mail trains returning east towards Glasgow along the banks of the Clyde having been on a driver training run to Fort William.
Ewan Crawford 14/02/2010

Wansbeck Viaduct: GBRf 66714 Cromer Lifeboat takes a southbound freight over the Wansbeck viaduct on the Blyth & Tyne between North Seaton and Marchey's House on 2 September 2009.
Colin Alexander 02/09/2009

First Group, seeking to pay down debt, has appointed KPMG to look for buyers for GB Railfreight, the company's freight operating unit. First Group acquired GBRf in 2003 as part of its takeover of GB Railways, but the freight unit remains an anomaly in the company's otherwise passenger-only portfolio. Freightliner, French state railway SNCF and Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel have all been touted as potential buyers. [Modern Railways]

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Woodhorn: GBRf 66714 Cromer Lifeboat with a freight ex-Lynemouth heading towards Ashington on the Blyth & Tyne. Photographed near Woodhorn on 2 September 2009.
Colin Alexander 02/09/2009

Rhu: GBRf Class 66 No 66714 Cromer Lifeboat takes Alcan tanks north at Rhu on the West Highland Line on 9 April 2010. It will shortly pass the returning southbound tanks at Garelochhead around 19.30.
John Robin 09/04/2010

Camden Road: Westbound containers from Felixstowe destined for the Midlands rumble across the bridge spanning the A503 and through Camden Road station in July 2005. The route is part of the heavily used inter-regional freight corridor utilising the North London Line. The locomotive is GBRf 66716.
John Furnevel 21/07/2005

Concern over East Coast rail services grew last night as it emerged that station improvements and catering could be dropped by a new operator.
The Government yesterday announced new trains will be tested on the East Coast Main Line - linking the region with Scotland and London - in 2012 and be fully introduced two years later.
But the future of catering services and station improvements are unclear.
A Department for Transport (DfT) blueprint for the new East Coast franchise, drawn up after GNER handed its contract back last year, reveals that it will be up to the new operator to decide whether to carry on with planned upgrades.
Transport companies First Group, National Express, Sunderland-based Arriva, and a joint bid between Stagecoach and Virgin are in the running to replace GNER by the end of the year.
It will be up to the winner to decide whether to continue with the station investments that were part of GNER's old franchise.

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Newcastle Central: A Class 158 with an arriving Northern service at Newcastle on 25 March 2019.
David Panton 25/03/2019

Newcastle Central: A TPE service for Liverpool Lime Street prepares to depart Newcastle's Platform 9 on 25 March.
David Panton 25/03/2019

Newcastle Central: 185105 to Manchester Airport waiting to depart from Newcastle station on 15th June 2018.
David Bosher 15/06/2018

Scotland's Railways in 2004, the year in review;

January : commissioning of Waverley interlocking

February : Larkhall sodcutting

March : Bowker visits completed platform extension at Bathgate

April : National Railway Museum succeed in bid for Flying Scotsman

May : start of locohauling to North Berwick

June : First Group named preferred bidder for ScotRail

July : Bowker to leave, SRA to be abolished in Government's Rail Review

August : deliveries of suburban Turbostars start for SPT

September : Virgin start tilting south of Crewe

October : Launch of First ScotRail

November : Royal Mail return to rail with GBRf at Shieldmuir

December : new traincare depot at Glasgow Eastfield goes live
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EDINBURGH bus operator First Group was today given the green light to press ahead with its bid for the ScotRail franchise.
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The transport operator First Group is given the green light to press ahead with its bid for ScotRail.
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The four companies are:

- Arriva Trains Ltd

- First Group PLC

- National Express Group PLC (Present franchise holder)

- Serco Rail/Netherlands Railways

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KML version