Chiltern Railways has been awarded a new six-year contract that includes commitments on decarbonising trains.
The Arriva-owned company said it has reached an agreement with the Department for Transport (DfT) to continue running trains between London Marylebone and Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the West Midlands.
As part of the deal, Chiltern Railways has committed to expanding trials converting diesel trains to diesel-battery hybrids, which are zero-emission while standing at stations.
It will also introduce an enhanced compensation scheme, which means passengers will be eligible for payouts if they are delayed by 15 minutes, rather than the current 30 minutes.
The new contract starts on December 31 and runs to the end of 2027.
Chiltern Railways has held the franchise for services on its routes since July 1996.
The firm’s managing director, Richard Allan, said: “I’m delighted and proud that Chiltern Railways has agreed a new national rail contract with the Department for Transport for the next six years.
“This gives certainty to customers and stakeholders and is a vote of confidence in our future and in the hard work of the Chiltern team which has made us one of the best performing train operators over many years.
“We are determined to modernise Chiltern Railways again and ensure we are fit to meet the challenges of the future. We look forward to continuing to serve our customers and attracting more customers to use the railway.”
The award of the contract was condemned by trade unions.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, said it was “immoral” to allow companies to “profit off the back of passengers and taxpayers” amid expected fare rises and cuts to services and staff.
Mick Lynch, general Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, described the agreement as “yet another rail contract dished out by the Tory Government to a company owned by German state railways”.
The DfT published the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail in May, setting out plans for sweeping reforms such as ending traditional rail franchises and introducing a new public sector body to oversee the network, named Great British Railways.
The Chiltern Railways agreement could see the firm moved onto a new type of contract in early 2025.