Italian Pendolino trains were introduced by current franchise holder Virgin Trains

West Coast railway shortlist announced

The Department for Transport has this morning announced the shortlist for the new West Coast rail franchise.

The successful bidder will be responsible for services on the West Coast main line from April 2019 and will also work with HS2 Ltd to design, launch and operate high-speed services between London and Birmingham from 2026, a factor that has led to national operators bringing in international partners with high-speed experience.

The shortlisted bidders are:

  • First Trenitalia West Coast Rail, the partnership between FirstGroup and Italian state operator Trenitalia.
  • West Coast Partnership, which sees Stagecoach team up with Virgin and French operator SNCF, which runs the high-speed TGV service. Stagecoach holds 50% in the venture and Virgin 20%.
  • MTR West Coast Partnership, made up of MTR Corporation UK and Guangshen Railway Company along with a series of sub-contractors: Deloitte MCS, Panasonic Systems Europe, Snowfall AB, and WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Secretary of State for Transport 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.

“This will create more seats for passengers, improve connections between our great cities, free up space on existing rail lines and generate jobs and economic growth throughout the country. I look forward to seeing the bidders’ innovative ideas to put passengers at the heart of the railway.”

On the most recent occasion the franchise was contested, in 2012, incumbent Virgin lost out to First, only for the decision to be overturned later that year when technical flaws in the bidding process emerged, which led to suspensions for three DfT staff. Virgin has operated the service since.

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