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May 31 2012.

Passengers across London, the South East, Sussex and the South Coast are being asked for their views to help shape a major new franchise for train services across their area, Rail Minister Theresa Villiers announced today.

The franchise is expected to cover most of the existing First Capital Connect franchise, including the Thameslink line which is undergoing a £6 billion upgrade. Services currently run by Southern will be added to the new combined franchise from 2015. This would see a single train operator to take responsibility for all rail services from Brighton to King's Lynn and Southampton to Ashford with London at the heart, creating the largest franchise in the UK rail market.

The consultation launched today gives local communities across the areas covered by the new franchise a chance to say what train services they would like to see run by the winning operator. It also asks the views of potential bidders on how they will improve the experience of passengers.

Theresa Villiers said: "This new franchise will be a key part of public transport in London and the South of England. Before we set the terms of the franchise and choose who will operate it, we want to hear a wide range of views on the services passengers want.

"We are also seeking views on how to maximise the benefits of the Thameslink upgrade and how they should be shared between different communities along the line.

"This consultation outlines a number of standards we expect any new operator to deliver as a matter of course, including improvements to stations, better ticket-buying facilities and passenger information and good levels of punctuality. But we also want passengers, and anyone else with an interest in improving the railways, to tell us about other ways in which they think services could be better."

The combined franchise is due to start in September 2013 and run for a minimum of seven years. The consultation commences on 31 May 2012 and closes on 23 August 2012.