Bidders announced for West Coast and South Eastern franchises


West Coast bidders must partner with an established high-speed operator to oversee the first HS2 services, while those for South Eastern are asked to consider new routes.

THE Department for Transport has announced the list of qualified bidders for the next two franchise competitions.

The West Coast Partnership is the franchise that will run inter-city trains on the West Coast Main Line as well as the first trains on HS2. It will take over the current West Coast contract in April 2019, and have the task of organising an integrated timetable that will reflect the use of the new high-speed line from 2026 alongside the services that will continue on the classic route. The contract will run for a period of up to 12 years.

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Bidders were required to form a partnership with an existing operator of high-speed services. The incumbent Virgin/Stagecoach joint venture has teamed up with French national operator SNCF, while First Group has opted to bid alongside the Italian operator Trenitalia – which has recently entered the UK rail market with the acquisition of the c2c franchise from National Express. The third bidder is a consortium made up of Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation and the Guangshen Railway Company, which operates services on the Shenzhen to Guangzhou corridor in China. A number of sub-contractors, including the Trainline to provide ticketing expertise and the civil engineers WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, are also included.

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