More foreign contenders on franchise shortlists

THE shortlisted bidders for two rail franchises have been announced by the Department for Transport.

They are the West Coast Partnership and Southeastern, and in both cases the existing operators are attempting to stay in control. There are also several foreign contenders for the two contracts.

For West Coast, Virgin and Stagecoach are bidding with SNCF, while another WCP bidder is a Chinese joint venture between MTR and Guangshen Railway Company. This bid is supported, unusually, by five named sub-contractors, who are the US-based accountants Deloitte, Panasonic Systems Europe, Swedish transport software developer Snowfall, and WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff.

The third contender is FirstGroup, which briefly won the Intercity West Coast franchise in 2012 before the competition was cancelled because of errors by the DfT. This time, however, First has also formed a joint venture for its second West Coast bid, with Italian operator Trenitalia.

Southeastern has attracted a shortlist of four. One is a joint venture of Abellio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui, which will be competing with three others: Stagecoach, Trenitalia and the incumbent operator Govia.

The West Coast Partnership franchise starts in April 2019, and will also include operating the first section of HS2 between London and Birmingham from 2026. The South Eastern franchise will change hands in December 2018, and the DfT said the winning bidder will be required to ‘work as one team’ with Network Rail. There will also be ‘longer trains with more space’.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “The West Coast Partnership will support growth and better services on the West Coast Main Line while helping to ensure that HS2 becomes the backbone of Britain’s railways. I look forward to seeing the bidders’ innovative ideas.

“South Eastern is one of the busiest franchises in the UK, running almost 2,000 services every weekday. We want passengers to be at the heart of everything that the new operator does, enjoying modern, spacious trains on a more punctual and reliable service. We will listen to what passengers say in the current public consultation, and we will seek to make changes and improvements only with their support.”

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