HAMPSHIRE County Council (HCC) has called for major improvements to the railways before a new franchise takes over next month.

The council's new 'Rail Position Statement', which was agreed by executive member for Environment and Transport at HCC, Cllr Rob Humby, focusses on areas that are vital to the county's continued economic prosperity and quality of life.

It also sets out a desire for improved journey times for passengers to and from London and Heathrow; improved freight movements to and from the Port of Southampton; better rail links in Southern and Northern Hampshire; and improved customer services, such as smart ticketing, more seating on key services, and better facilities at local railway stations.

First MTR South Western begin its work from 20 August 2017, taking over from South Western Rail Franchise.

Cllr Humby said: "With a new rail franchise for the area starting in August, at the same time as our working increasing with our new regional partners to secure our fair share of national transport funding, now is an ideal time to set out Hampshire's rail priorities.

"A successful transport network for Hampshire, which includes both road and rail, has far reaching benefits for the future economic prosperity of the whole country.”

He added: “We’re working closely with First MTR to improve journeys, both within the county and beyond; I’m really pleased that our feedback on seating has been taken on board and we’ll see these improvements on the first trains next month, as well as faster wi-fi, charging points for passengers and real time information on trains."

FirstGroup and MTR has vowed to deliver £1.2billion of investment to the South Western rail network. It has stated morning and evening peak seats at Waterloo will be boosted by 30 per cent by December 2020 as well as more Sunday services to match weekday off-peak on most routes from 2018.

Steve Montgomery, managing director of First Rail, said the group was "looking forward to serving customers across the region."

He added: "Partnering with and understanding the communities we serve is a key success factor in our strategy and it’s great that Councillor Humby recognises the work we have already done and we look forward to continuing this relationship.

"Our plans are based on delivering investment into the railway to deliver improvements in customer experience, whether that’s the new and refurbished trains or innovative solutions for ticket purchase with our new apps and website that will be available from day one."