UK: The shortlisted bidders for the West Coast Partnership franchise were announced by the Department for Transport on June 22. They are:

  • First Trenitalia West Coast Rail Ltd, a joint venture between FirstGroup’s First Rail Holdings Ltd (70%) and Italian state operator Trenitalia SpA (30%);
  • MTR West Coast Partnership Ltd, a joint venture of the MTR Corp (UK) Ltd subsidiary of Hong Kong’s MTR Corp and Guangshen Railway Co which operates the 481 km Shenzhen – Guangzhou – Pingshi Railway in China, with key sub-contractors including consultancy Deloitte MCS Ltd, Panasonic Systems Europe, Swedish travel software company Snowfall, ticket retailer Ltd and engineering consultancy;
  • West Coast Partnership Ltd, a joint venture between Stagecoach Group plc (50%), Virgin Holdings Ltd (30%) and the SNCF C3 (20%) subsidiary of the French national railway group.

The winning bidder will take over the existing inter-city services on the West Coast Main Line when the current contract held by Virgin (51%) and Stagecoach (49%) ends in April 2019.

The DfT requires bidders to have experience of operating dedicated high speed services over purpose-built infrastructure, because the winner will also be responsible for planning and operating the initial service on the London – Birmingham first phase of High Speed 2 for three to five years from the opening in 2026. Bidders will also be expected to revise services on the conventional route to take advantage of the extra capacity provided by the new line.

‘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’, said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. ‘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.’

Trenitalia CEO Barbara Morgante said the Italian state railway would ‘bring FS Italiane Group’s industry-leading high speed rail knowledge to the West Coast Partnership’, adding ‘we believe that the UK rail market provides an excellent opportunity for the group to leverage its experience accrued in the highly competitive Italian market’.

Jeremy Long, CEO, European Business, at MTR said the company would ‘look forward to putting together a world-class proposal that delivers the best possible service for passengers’.

Stagecoach Group CEO Martin Griffiths said he was ‘pleased that the extensive expertise and strong track-record of Stagecoach and our partners has been recognised’. He looked forward to ‘working with local stakeholders on shaping our plans to improve services for customers and deliver significant value to the taxpayer to reinvest in public services’.