Last March Trenitalia, in a temporary joint venture with Emilia Romagna Passenger Transport (TPER), became the only bidder to reach the final stage of the tender for the contract, which has an annual value of around €153m. As the offer was higher than expected, FER decided to not to award the contract.

FER has now decided it will hold further negotiations with two shortlisted bidders, Trenitalia-TPER and competitor Arriva, which prequalified in the tender but did not present an economic offer. The regional government wants to award the contract as soon as possible, although the terms of the tender have excluded a large number of bidders from taking part.

The contract will start on July 1 2016 and covers the operation of 18 million train-km per year in the first year of operation, encompassing all regional services in the Bologna area, together with 1.2 million bus-km per year.

The region will contribute €2.3bn towards the operation of services over the 15-year duration of the concession, although from the second year of the contract the subsidy will be adjusted for inflation.

According to the tender, at least 55% of the rolling stock fleet must be less than four-and-a-half years old when the contract begins.

All profits from fares will go to the contractor, which will also receive an annual €2m bonus from the region if it reaches or exceeds performance targets.