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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 October 2005, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK
Rail franchise 'decision close'
A South Eastern train
South Eastern Trains has been running the service since 2003
Commuters in Kent and Sussex will know by the end of the year who will run the region's main train services, the government has said.

Trains in the South East have been run by South Eastern Trains since Connex was stripped of its franchise in 2003.

On Tuesday the Transport Minister Derek Twigg told the Commons the new franchise will be awarded by Christmas.

As well as new rolling stock, Mr Twigg promised commuters would see 10% more trains to London during peak times.

But the Conservative MP for North Thanet Roger Gale said the decision has taken too long.

Map of South East franchise area
The franchise area covers Kent and parts of Sussex and London
He added: "This project's now running two years behind schedule and has had a very damaging affect on the economy of Kent."

The franchise covers trains throughout Kent, parts of Sussex and Surrey and into London from those counties.

The successful company is also set to run high speed services on the new Channel Tunnel Rail Link from 2008 or 2009.

The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) stripped French-owned Connex of its franchise in June 2003, stating poor financial management as the reason.

It was replaced five months later by South Eastern Trains, a subsidiary of the SRA.

The Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) has said it would like the area's trains kept under public sector control, arguing reliability has improved.

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31 Jul 05 |  England
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