DfT announces shortlist to operate West Coast Main Line franchise

The Government has announced the names of the companies in the running for the new West Coast Partnership (WCP) rail franchise.

The route, the main line service between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Scotland, is currently operated by Virgin Rail under an agreement with the Department for Transport.

However, this is due to end in 2019 when the new franchise starts.

The West Coast Partnership will be responsible for services on the West Coast Main Line from April 2019 and will design and run the initial HS2 high speed services between London and Birmingham from 2026.

The winning bidder will collaborate with HS2 Ltd to design, launch and operate the initial HS2 services and deliver the transition of the timetable on the West Coast Main Line as it is revised to take advantage of the extra capacity provided by HS2.

The DfT said there were significant benefits in bringing the two projects closer together to ensure the best outcomes for passengers both before and after the start of the HS2 services.

The new operator will also be expected to work closely with local transport authorities, Transport Scotland and the Welsh Government to ensure passengers receive the excellent experience they demand from the West Coast Main Line.

The shortlist contains rail companies operating in the UK, Europe and China – some with expertise in high speed railways around the globe. They are supported by businesses which have strong track records for customer services.

The shortlist is:

o  First Trenitalia West Coast Ltd, a joint venture between First Rail Holdings and Trenitalia

o  MTR West Coast Partnership Ltd, a joint venture between MTR Corporation (UK) Ltd and Guangshen Railway Company, with sub-contractors: Deloitte MCS Ltd, Panasonic Systems Europe, Snowfall AB, Trainline.com Ltd and WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff

o  West Coast Partnership Ltd, a joint venture between Stagecoach Group, Virgin Holdings Ltd and SNCF C3

Transport Secretary 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.”

Elsewhere, London Midland parent Go-Ahead Group has said the rail franchise’s financial performance remains strong.

In a pre-close statement, Go-Ahead said revenue and passenger numbers at London Midland were growing ahead of the wider industry.

“This strong performance has enabled the franchise to continue making profit share payments to the DfT; which are expected to continue for the remainder of the contract, to October 2017,” it said.

The group is awaiting the DfT’s announcement regarding the outcome of the West Midlands franchise competition, for which Go-Ahead has been shortlisted along with one other bidder.