After this date a new franchise will be let which, in July 2015, will then incorporate rail services currently operated by Southern. First Capital Connect’s parent company FirstGroup was one of the companies shortlisted to bid for this franchise in March 2012.
First Capital Connect operates services on the Thameslink line between Bedford and London.
Managing director Neal Lawson said: “Despite the challenges of operating an ageing fleet of trains, passenger satisfaction has improved during our time in charge of the franchise, some elements by up to 17%, despite carrying 14 million more people a year.
“We have brought in extra trains and longer services to deliver 29% more seats at the busiest times of the day on the Thameslink route.
We have also shown we can manage complex projects such as the Thameslink Programme which will deliver more much-needed new capacity and route improvements and we will continue working closely on this with the DfT and our industry partners.”
The First Capital Connect franchise extension provides “continuity and consistency” for passengers, said FirstGroup chief executive Tim O’Toole.
He added: “The publication of the timetable setting out the return to rail franchising is an important development for the industry, enabling the private sector to continue to provide effective and efficient passenger rail services with further performance and infrastructure improvements.”
Employers organisation the CBI has welcomed the government’s publication of a new rail franchise programme over the next eight years.
Director of business environment Rhian Kelly said: “It is right that ministers are getting a grip on the franchise system. A firm timetable and more robust procurement process are vital to rebuilding public, taxpayer and business confidence.
“It would be hard for franchising to survive another high-profile failure. The rail industry cannot afford further uncertainty which risks long-term damage to firms across the supply chain and cuts in rolling stock orders.
“Our eyes must remain on the long-term prize: attracting private investment and creating a much better service for passengers.”