The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has issued invitations to tender for the new South Western franchise in a bid to improve travel experience for rail passengers across the South Western network.
The DfT has also determined the minimum requirements bidders have to include in their detailed proposals. Bids are due to be submitted by 7 September, with the winner announced in February.
UK Rail Minister Claire Perry said: "We are making the biggest railway investment since the Victorian era and this is great news for passengers, who will see real benefits across the South Western network.
"This franchise has some of the busiest routes in the country, serving a diverse range of passengers and places and these improvements will deliver faster, smoother journeys for customers using these services."
Two bidders shortlisted for the franchise are the First South Western Trains and the Stagecoach South West.
The current South Western franchise is operated by South West Trains, which operates on urban, suburban, regional and long-distance routes, running between London Waterloo, Bristol, Exeter, Reading, Portsmouth, Weymouth as well as the Island Line on Isle of Wight.
The new operator will take over the franchise in June next year.
Image: The South Western franchise serves some of the busiest routes in the UK. Photo: courtesy of Gov.UK.