The RRX network is intended to bring a consistently high-quality fast regional rail service to Germany's most densely-populated region, with trains running at 15-minute intervals on the core Dortmund – Cologne line. Because of the size of the network, operation has been tendered as three separate contracts, with VRR announcing the preferred bidders in June.
Lot 1 will begin in December 2018 and will be operated by Abellio's German subsidiary Abellio Rail NRW. The contract covers the operation of around 6.2 million train-km per year on lines RE1 (Aachen - Cologne - Essen - Hamm) and RE11 (Düsseldorf - Essen - Dortmund - Hamm - Kassel).
The other two contracts will be operated by National Express. Lot 2 covers the operation of around 6 million train-km per year on lines RE5 (Koblenz - Cologne - Düsseldorf - Wesel) and RE6 (Cologne/Bonn Airport - Cologne - Düsseldorf - Essen - Hamm - Minden), while Lot 3 covers 2.4 million train-km per year on Line RE4 (Aachen - Mönchengladbach - Hagen - Dortmund). Lot 2 begins in June 2019, while Lot 3 starts in December 2020.
VRR managed the procurement on behalf of four other public transport authorities: North Hessen (NVV), Westphalia-Lippe (NWL), Rhineland-Pfalz North (SNNV-Nord), and Rhineland (ZVNVR).
Siemens will supply 82 four-car Desiro High Capacity EMUs to a special purpose vehicle set up by the tendering authorities, which will then lease the trains back to the two operators. Siemens will maintain the fleet for 30 years.