"We're looking to appoint a world class operator to run a world class service that will see Crossrail set the benchmark for railway services in Europe," says the mayor of London Mr Boris Johnson. The concession will run for eight years with an option to extend it by two years. The 10-year concession will be worth around £2bn.

"Work on delivering Crossrail, a new rail service linking west to east through the heart of London, continues at a pace with tunnelling well underway and work at key stations being carried out," says Mr Howard Smith, Chief Operating Officer for London Rail.

Crossrail will take over services currently operated by Greater Anglia between London Liverpool Street and Shenfield using existing trains in May 2015. Crossrail has started the procurement of a fleet of 60 10-car trains worth around £1bn with the first trains due to enter service in May 2017. The main Crossrail services connecting Canary Wharf, Liverpool Street, Tottenham Court Road and Paddington will start in late 2018, with the full service to Maidenhead scheduled for December 2019. Crossrail is expected to carry about 200 million passengers a year.