The InterCity West Coast franchise will run for 14 years from April
2012 with an option for a one year extension, which means expiry should
coincide with the opening of the parallel high-speed line from London
to Birmingham in 2026. The bidders include Netherlands Railways'
subsidiary Abellio, FirstGroup, Keolis/SNCF, and the current operator
Virgin Group Holdings (a joint venture between Virgin and Stagecoach).

Among the bidders that failed to make the shortlist was German Rail
(DB) subsidiary Arriva. However, another DB-owned company, Alliance
Rail, is planning to launch open access services from London to Leeds,
Blackpool, and Carlisle via the West Coast Main Line in 2014.

In total contrast with West Coast, Greater Anglia will run for a period
of just 17 months from next February. The DfT says it has opted for a
short duration to allow any reforms arising from the McNulty value for
money review to be built into the new franchise. However the DfT
appears unwilling to allow incumbent operator National Express to
continue in the role and it has been excluded from the shortlist.

In a statement, National Express CEO Mr Dean Short said the company is
disappointed with the decision and is seeking urgent clarification from
the DfT on why it was excluded.

Greater Anglia will be contested by Abellio, Go-ahead, and Stagecoach.


Photo: The current operator of the West Coast franchise Virgin has been shortlisted in the latest contest.