British transport operator FirstGroup has reached an agreement with the Department for Transport (DfT) to operate the First Capital Connect (FCC) rail franchise for a further six months.

The existing FCC rail franchise is scheduled to end on 31 March.

The new contract will cover services between London, Bedford, Brighton and Kings Lynn and will bridge the gap between the existing contract and the new Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern (TSGN) franchise, which is due to begin in September.

During the six-month contract period, FCC will provide new and enhanced information at stations, improved customer assistance, additional levels of train cleaning, and improvements to stations along the route.

"We have embarked on one of the biggest programmes of rail modernisation ever."

UK Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "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.

"We have embarked on one of the biggest programmes of rail modernisation ever, with more than £38bn 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."

Once operational, TSGN is expected to carry over 280 million passengers each year from Kings Lynn, Peterborough, Bedford, Southampton and Brighton into London on a fleet of new electric trains.

FCC operates trains from London to Bedford, Brighton, Wimbledon and Sutton on the Thameslink route and Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn on the Great Northern route.

DfT has also released invitations to tender for the Essex Thameside and Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchises.

Image: TSGN will transform rail travel into and out of London. Photo: courtesy of Gov.UK