ON JUNE 11 the UK Strategic Rail Authority announced that FirstGroup had been selected as preferred bidder to operate the new ScotRail franchise.

The current franchise has been held by National Express Group since March 31 1997 and expires on October 17. The new franchise will run for seven years, with the possibility of a three-year extension if performance is satisfactory. FirstGroup already runs many bus services in Scotland and sees opportunities for integration.

As signatories to the franchise agreement with SRA, the Scottish Executive and Strathclyde PTE have been closely involved in negotiations with the four shortlisted bidders. SPT Chairman Alistair Watson said ’we will get our teeth into the details and fully scrutinise’ FirstGroup’s offer. Scotland’s Transport Minister Nicol Stephen believed FirstGroup ’offered the highest quality overall and the best value for money.’