The bidders for the main ScotRail franchise include incumbent operator FirstGroup, together with Abellio, Arriva, MTR Corporation, and National Express, which operated the original franchise between privatisation in March 1997 and October 2004.

The current franchise is due to expire on 31 March 2015.

A draft invitation to tender will be published on November 19 for the new franchise, which will run for a maximum of 10 years with a break option after five years.

The winning bidder will be required to improve train performance, introduce contactless fare collection and enhanced passenger facilities, including onboard Wi-Fi, and manage the procurement of new rolling stock. There will also be greater emphasis on alliance working with infrastructure manager Network Rail to implement joint projects.

Caledonian Sleeper overnight services from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fort William, Inverness, and Aberdeen are being tendered as a separate 15-year franchise. According to Brown, the final invitation to tender for the sleeper franchise was published on October 28 and three bidders – Arriva, FirstGroup, and Serco – are due to submit their proposals to Transport Scotland by December 12.