FIRST Capital Connect has had its franchise to run Thameslink rail services extended for a further 28 weeks after its present contract ends in September.
As well as announcing the extension, the Department for Transport (DfT) has also said that as part of a franchising reorganisation it is looking to award a short-term contract for up to two years shortly after the end of the 28 weeks.
The longer-term aim will be to award a seven-year contract.
First Capital Connect has expressed an interest in bidding for the new contracts.
Locally, Thameslink provides services to Brighton, Bedford and Luton Airport from East Croydon and to Bedford and Luton Airport from Sutton.
First Capital Connect managing director Neal Lawson said: "Passenger satisfaction has improved during our time in charge, some elements by up to 17 per cent, despite carrying 14 million more people a year.
"We have added 29 per cent more seats on the Thameslink route at the busiest times of the day through extra trains and longer services."
He added that the company looked forward to working closely with the DfT and industry partners to provide more much-needed new capacity and route improvements as efficiently as possible.