The government is considering plans for tech giants to be involved in running the new HS2 service and is encouraging the likes of Uber and Google to buy minority stakes in the franchise that will serve the train line.
The plans, considering a range of innovative firms as possible investors, have been floated by the transport department in an effort to make sure the £55.7bn high-speed line will not be left behind by new technology when it opens in 2026.
Such companies will be encouraged to buy stakes in new super-consortiums that would bid for the right to run trains when the department launches a new franchise in 2019.
A DfT spokesperson said: “HS2 will be the backbone of Britain’s railways, creating more seats for passengers on the West Coast and the rest of the network. In order to deliver a world-class experience for passengers, we want the leading companies in innovation and customer service on board. This will ensure we can deliver all of the benefits that HS2 will bring to communities across the United Kingdom.”
Back in November, the government announced that a new rail franchise will be combining the current InterCity West Coast main line, currently run by Virgin and Stagecoach, with HS2 high-speed services. The franchise, called the West Coast Partnership, is scheduled to start on 1 April 2019, and will run the initial HS2 services in 2026 too.
A franchise bidders’ industry day was held in the capital last month for it, with online payments firm Worldline, Uber and the tech arm of McLaren, all present. The government is considering an open approach to the makeup of the partnership and is on the hunt for collaborative new thinking and innovation from other sectors which wouldn't necessarily transfer into the industry otherwise.
The government has said the successful operator will have a range of skills, including operating conventional rail services, high-speed ones and developing and delivering innovation.