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West Coast Mainline and HS2 franchise race started

West Coast Main Line

An invitation to tender for companies to run the new West Coast Partnership which comprises the West Coast Mainline (WCML) franchise and the introduction of HS2 services, has been launched by the government.

The successful company will be responsible for running all aspects of the service including ticketing, trains, maintenance of the track and other infrastructure including signalling. It will also be expected to drive improvements on the current West Coast line until 2031 and oversee the introduction of HS2 services from 2026.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said the West Coast Partnership would deliver immediate benefits to passengers and “pave the way for the seamless introduction of HS2, with one operator responsible for all aspects of the journey, designed to deliver the best-possible passenger service”.

He continued: “I want HS2 to become a strong British organisation, potentially capable of not just building, but also operating a successful railway – a beacon for other countries to aspire to, both in terms of the engineering project to build it and the service it will offer to passengers, which we will introduce on the West Coast Partnership.”

Only the three joint ventures which were short listed for the partnership last June, will be able to bid for the contract.

They are:

  • First Trenitalia West Coast, a joint venture between First Rail Holdings and Italian transport operator, Trenitalia.
  • MTR West Coast Partnership, a joint venture between Hong Kong based operator MTRCorporation (UK) and Chinese rail operator Guangshen Railway Company, with the following key sub-contractors: Deloitte MCS Ltd, Panasonic Systems Europe, Snowfall AB,, WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff
  • West Coast Partnership a joint venture between Stagecoach Group plc, Virgin Holdings Ltd and French rail operator SNCF C3.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Interesting comment from Chris Grayling that he wants a strong British organisation, when all three of the joint ventures have a foreign party involved...usually another country's rail operator. Does this really show how strong we are when we need other countries to show how to run a railway?

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  • The franchise spec is sound and I look forward to the ideas which emerge. I would like to see extra Pendolino driving coaches bought so that the conventional services can divide and serve more destinations. Incidentally there are only 3 British rail franchise operators and all 3 are involved.

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