Abellio was confirmed as preferred bidder for the franchise on April 10 and the signing of the contract follows the end of a standstill period.

The East Midlands franchise competition is the subject of a legal dispute between the incumbent operator, Stagecoach subsidiary East Midlands Trains, and the DfT.

Last month the DfT disqualified Stagecoach from the East Midlands, South Eastern and West Coast Partnership franchise competitions “for submitting non-compliant bids, principally in respect of pensions risk.”

EMT subsequently filed a claim at the High Court in London on May 8 alleging that the DfT breached its statutory obligations under European Regulation 1370/2007.

Stagecoach is also preparing a claim for a judicial review of the DfT’s decision to disqualify it from bidding for the East Midlands franchise and the decision to award the franchise to Abellio.