TRANSPORT for London has started its search for the firm that will operate the new Crossrail service through the city.
Rail companies have until the end of April to express an interest in taking the Crossrail concession in May 2015.
MTR, the Hong Kong-listed firm that runs the London Overground, is expected to be among the firms throwing their hats in the ring. First Group said it was studying the details of the tender.
The successful bidder will have to recruit staff and oversee the switch from rolling stock to brand new trains as the route becomes fully operational by 2019.
But the first order of business for the concession holder will be to take over the National Rail route between Liverpool Street and Shenfield from Greater Anglia in 2015.
TfL will have the power to set targets on service, punctuality and cleanliness, as it does with the Overground and Docklands Light Railway.
The £1bn purchase of the trains used on the route will be publicly-funded, however, following a change of direction earlier this month.
Crossrail will eventually link Maidenhead and Heathrow with Shenfield and Abbey Wood, with 72 miles of track and 37 stations across London taking in Canary Wharf, the City and the West End.
The service is forecast to take 200m passengers a year. The winning bidder will be appointed by late 2014, TfL said.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: “We’re looking to appoint a world class operator to run a world class service that will see Crossrail set the benchmark for railway services in Europe.”
Around 7,000 people at 40 sites are working on the £2bn project, along with five of the eight giant boring machines that will drill the 26 miles of tunnels required.
•A mere one in three senior transport executives think the government has a clear strategy for the sector, according to a survey out today by consultancy Moorhouse. Crossrail was cited as the second most important project over the next 20 years, behind a plan for airports in the south east of England, a survey of 130 bosses found.