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MTR JV wins UK rail franchise

The U.K. Department for Transport will hand the South Western rail franchise to a joint venture between MTR Corp. Ltd. and FirstGroup plc.

The franchise is being awarded to First MTR South Western Trains Ltd., a 70/30 joint venture between FirstGroup and MTR. It will operate for a seven-year period from August, with an option for an 11-month extension.

The 976-kilometer network serves 186 operator-managed stations, and a number of investments are planned to enhance service quality, according to a release.

MTR takes over from Stagecoach Group, which has controlled the franchise for over 20 years.