First Capital Connect is to carry on running its trains for an extra six months to bridge the gap between the end of its current contract and the start of a new to-be-bid-for mega-franchise carrying more than 280 million passengers a year.
In a deal announced by the Government today, First Capital Connect (FCC) will continue its franchise until September when a new Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise will start.
The new deal for FCC covers services between London, Bedford, Brighton and Kings Lynn.
Starting in September, TSGN will be the largest franchise on the network and will take in the £6.5 billion Thameslink improvement programme which includes new electric trains.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said today: "We have embarked on one of the biggest programmes of rail modernisation ever, with more than £38 billion being spent to maintain and improve our railways over the next five years.
"This contract is a major step towards boosting services for the 150,000 passengers who use these routes every day, as well as the national and regional economies.
"The new contract with FCC represents the best deal for passengers and taxpayers. It ensures the continuity of the existing service and guarantees the completion of the ongoing Thameslink Programme."
Bob Crow, leader of the RMT transport union, said: "It defies belief that FirstGroup has been lined up for a lucrative extension of the Thameslink franchise when the performance and passenger satisfaction along the route is down in the relegation zone.
"It makes you wonder just how poor a company needs to be under rail privatisation before this Government do the right thing, pull the plug and allow the public sector to run our trains in the interest of public service and not private greed."