A new rail franchise combining existing InterCity West Coast services with the development and introduction of High Speed 2 (HS2) services has been announced by the government.
The new West Coast Partnership – which will run for the first three to five years of operation of HS2 – will be responsible for West Coast Mainline services from 2019 and for designing and running new high speed services from 2026.
“This is a real opportunity to ensure HS2 services complement and enhance existing ones,” said HS2 Ltd chairman Sir David Higgins.
“I have always been clear HS2 will not be a standalone railway but fully integrated with the wider network. It will provide a new backbone for our railways, modernising services to better serve towns and cities up and down the country.
“Bringing on board a new partner to work with HS2 Ltd now will help ensure we are working towards the same goal.”
Phase one of HS2, due to open in 2026, will see high speed train travel between London and Birmingham before running on from Birmingham on the existing West Coast Main Line.
“We are embarking on a new chapter in our modernisation of the railways and we need world-class expertise to deliver it,” said transport minister Andrew Jones.
“HS2 will be the backbone of Britain’s railways, creating more seats for passengers on the West Coast and increasing capacity on the rest of the network.
“By combining the franchise we are ensuring we get the right people on board at an early stage to design and manage the running of both services in the transition stage. The new franchise will attract highly experienced companies, who have the right experience, which ultimately means a better deal for passengers – both now and in the future.”
The franchise is scheduled to start in April 2019 with the invitation to tender expected in autumn 2017.