An invitation to tender will be issued to shortlisted candidates in July and the contract is due to be awarded in June 2017, with the new franchise starting in October 2017.

The three shortlisted bidders are:

  • London and West Midlands Railway, a subsidiary of Govia (a joint venture between Keolis and Go-Ahead Group)
  • West Midlands Trains, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Abellio Transport Group with East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and Mitsui as minority partners, and
  • MTR Corporation (West Midlands), a wholly-owned subsidiary of MTR Corporation (UK).

The West Midlands franchise is currently operated by London Midland, a joint venture between Go-Ahead (65%) and Keolis (35%). The franchise carries around 64 million passengers per year and covers an 867km network with 146 stations, encompassing suburban and regional services radiating from Birmingham as well as suburban, regional and inter-regional services from London Euston to Milton Keynes, Northampton, Birmingham, Crewe, and Liverpool via the West Coast Main Line. London Midland has operated the franchise since November 2007 and was awarded a two-year interim franchise last December.

The DfT also announced on April 7 that the consortium of JR East and Mitsui bidding for the West Midlands franchise has qualified for a Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) Passport, enabling it to bid in any upcoming franchise tender over the next four years.