The contract value is nominal as it represents payments to MTR during the life of the concession before performance-related bonuses or penalties are applied.

There were three other bidders for the contract: Arriva, National Express Group, and a joint venture of Keolis and GoAhead. "The decision to appoint MTR was reached after a thorough and competitive procurement process and we look forward to working with them to transform rail services in the capital," says Mr Mike Brown MVO, managing director of London Underground and London Rail.

Crossrail involves new construction in the centre of London, with 21km of twin-bore tunnels, linking Paddington in the west with Stratford and Abbey Wood in the east. Crossrail will also incorporate existing lines from Paddington west to Heathrow Airport and Reading and from Stratford east to Shenfield. The total network will be 118km long with 40 stations.

On May 31 2015, MTR will take over the operation of stopping services currently operated by Abellio Greater Anglia between London Liverpool Street, Stratford and Shenfield using the existing EMU fleet which will be refreshed.

MTR will work with Bombardier which already has a £1bn contract to build and maintain a fleet of 65 nine-car EMUs for Crossrail. The first trains are expected to enter service on the Shenfield line in 2017.

MTR will take over the Heathrow Connect stopping service between Heathrow Airport and London Paddington in May 2018 which is currently operated by First Great Western and Heathrow Express.

Crossrail will then open in phases starting with Paddington – Abbey Wood in December 2018, followed by Paddington – Shenfield in May 2019. The full cross-London service to Reading and Heathrow Airport will be launched in December 2019.

Crossrail will operate at a peak frequency of 24 trains per hour on the core section in central London with an estimated 11.4 train-km being operated annually.

MTR expects to employ around 1100 staff, of which 850 will be new appointments with the remainder transferring from existing operators. There are expected to be around 400 train drivers.

MTR is already involved in running train services in London. MRT is in a 50:50 joint venture with German Rail (DB) though its Arriva subsidiary to operate the London Overground network.