Press release

Bidders to oversee improvements on rail franchises announced

13 firms in running to become next operators of the Great Western, Thameslink and Essex Thameside rail franchises.

Improvements for rail passengers under government franchise plans came a step closer as the bidders to run services were announced by Rail Minister Theresa Villiers today (29 March 2009).

A total of 13 firms are in the running to become the next operators of the Great Western, Thameslink and Essex Thameside rail franchises and introduce better train services, safer stations and more convenient ways to buy tickets.

Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said

The government is engaged in the biggest programme of refranchising since the privatisation of the railways. Our reformed approach to franchising will give more flexibility to train operators on how they configure services and run their business, within a framework set by the franchise agreement which will protect key outcomes for the passenger, the taxpayer and the economy. We welcome the strong interest shown in these three competitions by the rail industry. A vibrant and competitive market for franchises is an important part of our strategy for improving services for passengers and reducing the cost of running the railway.

The new Great Western franchise operator will be closely involved in improving rail services following the completion of the electrification and Intercity Express projects.

The new Thameslink operator will help oversee the completion of the Thameslink project which will enable a near doubling of capacity into and through central London in the peak periods.

The operator of Essex Thameside services will be expected to support economic growth along the Thames Gateway.

The firms bidding to take over the franchises have been chosen following a pre-qualification process.

Bidders for Great Western franchise:

  • First Great Western Trains Limited (FirstGroup plc)
  • GW Trains Limited (Arriva UK Trains Limited - DB (UK) Investments Limited)
  • NXGW Trains Limited (National Express Group PLC)
  • Stagecoach Great Western Trains Limited (Stagecoach Group plc)

These potential providers will receive the Invitation to Tender which is anticipated will be issued in May 2012. It is anticipated that the successful bidder will be announced in December 2012, with the contract commencing in April 2013. The length of the franchise term will be 15 years.

Bidders for Essex Thameside franchise:

  • Abellio Essex Thameside Limited (NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen)
  • First Essex Thameside Limited (FirstGroup plc)
  • MTR Corporation (Essex Thameside) Limited (MTR Corporation Limited)
  • NXET Trains Limited (National Express Group PLC)

These potential providers will receive the Invitation to Tender which is anticipated will be issued in June 2012. It is anticipated the successful bidder will be announced in January 2013, with the contract commencing in May 2013. The length of the franchise term will be 15 years.

  • Abellio Thameslink Limited (NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen)
  • First Thameslink Limited (FirstGroup plc)
  • Govia Thameslink Railway Limited (Go-Ahead Group plc and Keolis SA)
  • MTR Corporation (Thameslink) Limited (MTR Corporation Limited)
  • Stagecoach Thameslink Trains Limited (Stagecoach Group plc)

These potential providers will receive the invitation to tender which is anticipated will be issued in October 2012. It is anticipated that the successful bidder will be announced in May 2013, with the contract commencing in September 2013. The length of the franchise will be a minimum of 7 years, with pricing also required for a potential extension of up to 2 years at the discretion of the Secretary of State for Transport.

Notes to editors:

Details of the Great Western Franchise

Details of the Essex Thameside Franchise

Details of the Thameslink Franchise

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