LONDON: Hong Kong subway operator MTR Corporation has been picked to help run South West Trains, one of Britain’s biggest rail franchises, the government said on Monday.
MTR will operate SWT services alongside British train and bus company FirstGroup over the next seven years, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced in a statement.
Their new joint venture First MTR South Western Trains Limited will be 70-percent owned by FirstGroup. MTR will hold the remaining 30 percent.
They will take over services on August 20 from transport group Stagecoach, which currently runs SWT trains across south- eastern England from London Waterloo station.
“First MTR South Western Trains Limited will use the experience of one of its major shareholders MTR, who operate the busy Hong Kong metro, to deliver smooth and rapid journeys for passengers travelling around London’s suburban network,” the DfT added in the statement.
“Faster journeys will be delivered through a consistent fleet of new suburban trains offering a regular, metro-style service. Passengers can look forward to more space.”
The new operators will oversee a £1.2-billion ($1.5 billion, 1.4 billion euro) investment to improve journeys for millions of train passengers, the DfT added.
However, trade unions lashed out at the news.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union argued that MTR was now set to make “a killing at the British taxpayers’ expense”.
South West Trains runs some of the busiest commuter lines in Europe, with passenger numbers doubling since it became the first UK rail company to be privatised 21 years ago.