There is a 10-day appeal period for unsuccessful bidders before the contact can be signed, and IntEgro Transport will drop out of the consortium once National Express has obtained an operating licence for Germany.

The concessions, which cover the operation of 5.1 million train-km per year, will start in December 2015 and National Express estimates that they will generate revenues of €1.6bn during the 15-year period. However, National Express will incur financial penalties if trains are delayed by more than two minutes.

The other two transport authorities are Westphalia-Lippe Local Transport (NWL) and Rhineland Local Transport (NVR). The two concessions comprise Regional Express Line 7 (RE7) linking Rheine, Münster, Hamm, Wuppertal, Solingen, Cologne and Krefeld, and Regional Line 48 (RB48) operating between Wuppertal-Oberbarmen, Solingen, Cologne and Bonn-Mehlem.

Under the terms of the contract, National Express will purchase a fleet of 36 emus. These will be sold to VRR and NWL which will take over the financing of the trains and lease them back to National Express. VRR says this model has already worked successfully for a concession it awarded to Netherlands Railways (NS) international subsidiary, Abellio Rail.

The new trains for Line RE7 will have 510 seats, 30 more than the DB Regio trains they will replace, while Line RB48 will have 415-seat trains. Each train will have two toilets, space for wheelchairs, pushchairs and bicycles, and stepless access from station platforms. To improve passenger security, CCTV will be fitted and staff will be provided onboard after 19.00. The trains will have a maximum speed of 160km/h compared with 140km/h today and better acceleration in order to be able recover from the frequent delays caused by late-running long-distance trains on the busy Hamm – Wuppertal – Cologne section.

National Express used to be the largest train operator in Britain, having up to five franchises, but today only retains the c2c commuter rail franchise linking London with Southend and Shoeburyness. It has been pre-qualified to bid for three other concessions in Germany. National Express says the German train operating market is the largest in Europe and twice the size of that in Britain with competitions for 35 tenders due to start in the next two years.