LONDON, March 27 (Xinhua) -- MTR, the company that runs the Hong Kong metro system, was named on Monday as a partner in a new consortium to run one of the major inter-city rail franchises in Britain.
MTR and rail operator FirstGroup have been awarded a contract to operate one of the busiest rail routes in London, serving towns and cities in the southwest of England.
A new company, First MTR South Western Trains Limited, will use the experience of MTR to deliver smooth and rapid journeys for passengers travelling around London's suburban network, said the Department for Transport (DfT).
It is the first franchise awarded since Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling set out his vision for the future of the railways which involves the biggest investment in rail services across Britain since the Victoria era. The contract also marks a new era in work between train operators and Network Rail, said the DfT.
Currently, train operating companies work separately from Network Rail, which is responsible for track and rail infrastructure.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: "First MTR South Western Trains Limited will deliver the improvements that people tell us they want right across the South Western franchise area."
"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, ensuring that the railway can support London's growth."
The company will oversee an investment of more than 1.5 billion U.S. dollars that will improve journeys for millions of train passengers, especially people using commuter routes into London's busy Waterloo station.
As well as thousands of extra seats, a fleet of 90 new trains will provide more space for passengers on routes into London from Reading and Windsor.
There will also be faster journey times from a number of major places such as Southampton, Salisbury and Portsmouth.
The new franchise will run for seven years from Aug. 20, 2017 when MTR and FirstGroup take over the route from the current operator. MTR is already involved in running the London Overland railway.
Jeremy Long, who is CEO of MTR's European operation, said: "MTR is known across the world for the excellent quality of its rail services, and we look forward to working with FirstGroup to provide a best-in-class travel experience for passengers in London and the South West. Together we will deliver a major program of upgrades, including improvements to both rail services and customer experience, for passengers travelling across the South Western network."