The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced the companies shortlisted to run the new West Coast Main Line. The winner will also design and run the first HS2 services between London and Birmingham from 2026.
The bidders are:
- First Trenitalia West Coast - a joint venture between First Rail and Trenitalia
- Hong Kong's MTR West Coast Partnership - a joint venture between MTR and Guangshen Railway
- West Coast Partnership - a joint venture between Stagecoach, Virgin and SNCF
The West Coast franchise connects London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow.
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.
The government announced in November that a new rail franchise will combine the current InterCity West Coast services with the development of the new high speed railway.
The new franchise, West Coast Partnership, will be responsible for services on both the West Coast Main Line from 2019, and designing and running the initial high speed services from 2026. It will run for the first three to five years of operation of HS2.
The first phase of HS2 is due to open in 2026. Trains will travel at high speed between London and Birmingham before running on from Birmingham on the existing West Coast Main Line. It will triple the number of seats at rush hour from 11,000 to 30,000.