Protests over Thameslink rail franchise

Protest cards Protests were held in London, Sussex, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire

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Rail campaigners have held protests in London and Sussex after the Thameslink rail franchise was awarded to Govia.

Unions said people would see "flashy" new trains but safety would be at risk - while Govia said it never compromised on safety and the government said the unions were scaremongering.

The new Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise will run for seven years from this September.

Protests were also held in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.

Nick Child, from the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, said: "They [passengers] might see flashy new trains, more carriages, but they're going to get less personal service. There'll be less staff on trains. Trains will be less safe."

'Busiest stations staffed'

Unions including the RMT have claimed fares in London will go to subsidise fares in France because Govia is a joint venture between French company Keolis and Go Ahead.

They also said the government was allowing cuts in the number of guards on trains, introduction of driver-only trains and reductions in station staff.

But a spokeswoman for Govia said: "We never compromise on safety. The safety of passengers and staff is always of paramount importance."

She said many services were already "driver only", and the new franchise would see the busiest stations staffed from the first to last train.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "This is irresponsible scaremongering by the rail unions and their actions show no regard for passengers."

He said the franchise would see 1,400 new electric carriages, providing 50% more capacity and 10,000 extra seats every weekday into London during the morning peak by the end of 2018.

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