Greater Anglia Class 745 Stadler inter-city trainset at London Liverpool Street

UK: Dutch state passenger operator NS has announced a management buy-out of its Abellio UK rail and bus business. New company Transport UK Group Ltd will take over the East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Trains, Greater Anglia and Merseyrail passenger rail businesses and more than 50 London bus routes by the end of the year.

The announcement came as NS presented its half-yearly results on August 23. NS said it changed its international strategy in 2018 to require foreign activities to contribute to the interests of Dutch travellers, and with Abellio UK no longer of strategic importance it decided to withdraw from the UK to focus on services within, to and from the Netherlands.

Merseyrail train at Birkenhead North (Photo: Tony Miles)


Exiting the UK took time due to uncertainties in the British market and the €0·5bn of outstanding guarantees, but NS said fundamental changes have now been made to the UK rail sector which offer greater stability and enabled a deal to be reached.

‘After a successful 20 years in the UK passenger transport market, NS is proud to support this natural next step for Abellio UK as it transitions with our blessing into a new management owned passenger transport group’, said NS Acting CEO Bert Groenewegen on August 23.

The Dutch Ministry of Finance as NS’s principal shareholder has already approved the sale, but completion is subject to approval from the UK’s Department for Transport, Transport for London, Merseytravel and the Office for Rail & Road.

Transport UK Group

Transport UK Group will be headed by Abellio UK Managing Director Dominic Booth.

He joined Abellio Group in 2007, having been Managing Director of six train operating companies and subsequently Chairman of 10, with roles at British Rail, Connex Transport, Prism Rail and National Express Group where he was Deputy Chief Executive of the rail division before leaving to join Abellio.

East Midlands Railway Class 222

East Midlands Railway

‘I’ve been a railwayman all my life’, he said. ’I am thrilled to have the opportunity to return key public transport services back into UK ownership at a time when some of our competitors look destined for overseas ownership.

’We expect the business to transfer by the end of the year, following which we will focus all our energies and expertise on continuing to deliver the best possible services for our passengers, investing in our train and bus routes, and helping to develop a future ready, low emission UK transport network.

’Our wish to buy the company from Nederlandse Spoorwegen demonstrates our confidence in the existing Abellio UK team, both in our head office and on the ground. It’s the dedication of our 15 000 employees, together with a continuity of management, that will ensure our new company is a great success.

West Midlands Trains

West Midlands Trains

‘We are grateful for the support and backing that we have received from Nederlandse Spoorwegen to date, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with them to manage this process to a successful conclusion.’

He said the deal would ‘put us in a strong position to continue the smooth operating of our current routes as well as giving us the capability to grow the business and bid for new franchises in the future. Beyond that, we are, and will continue to be, thought leaders in our sector determined to play a long-term and vital role in future of UK transport.’


Responding to the news, General Secretary of the TSSA trade union Manuel Cortes said ’the management buy-out of Abellio is yet another missed opportunity to bring our rail services into public ownership where they belong. Whether UK or foreign-owned, it’s the private profiteering that’s wrong when it comes to our public transport.

’We need a positive vision and future for rail services – putting passengers and services at the heart of an investment and job security programme which prioritises public transport as part of our response to the climate crisis and economic stimulus.’

General Secrtary of the RMT union Mick Lynch said ’this is yet another spin on the railway money-go-round where there are huge profits to be made riding on the backs of the taxpayer, fare payer and public transport workers.’