UK: The Department for Transport and the Govia joint venture of Go-Ahead (65%) and Keolis (35%) have agreed a short-term extension to the current South Eastern passenger franchise until November 10, the operator confirmed on June 13, with an option for a further extension to April 1 2020.

The franchise extension follows Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling’s announcement on April 10 that the start of the next tendered franchise would be delayed ‘while we make a decision on the competition’.

The extension agreement includes package of improvements including a reduction of the delay repay trigger time from 30 min to 15 min, which was to have been part of the next franchise, as well as website improvement to make it faster to claim refunds and easier to identify the lowest fares. Enhancements to The Key smartcard will include the online purchase of single and return tickets.

Govia has operated the services in London, Kent and East Sussex under the Southeastern brand since April 2006, first under an eight-year tendered franchise and since October 2014 under a direct award contract.

It is shortlisted for the next franchise, along with a joint venture of Abellio, East Japan Railway and Mitsui & Co.

A joint venture of Stagecoach and Alstom was disqualified from three franchise bidding processes because of non-compliance with the terms, while Trenitalia had previously withdrawn to focus on bidding for the West Coast Partnership inter-city contract which was its primary target in entering the UK market.