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UK rail franchise shortlists released
From the Financial Times of Tue, 19 Aug 2014 17:00:37 GMT

The shortlisted bidders for two UK rail franchises, Northern and TransPennine Express, were announced on Tuesday as the rail franchising process gained further momentum.

Bidders in the running for Northern – which encompasses a network of routes linking Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds – are Dutch operator Abellio; Arriva, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn; and Govia, the joint venture between Go-Ahead and Keolis, a division of French state operator SNCF.

TransPennine Express, which runs services in the North and into Scotland, is being bid for by the incumbent FirstGroup, another joint venture between Go-Ahead and Keolis, and Stagecoach.

Only three bidders are in the running for each franchise so shortlisted operators had good probabilities of success, analysts said.

FirstGroup, which recently lost out on the Caledonian Sleeper and Thameslink franchises, appeared to have a greater chance of future success, based on past bid cycles, said Damian Brewer, analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

With Go-Ahead in the running for both, a success would mean that its reach in rail would extend beyond London and the southeast.

The bus and rail group operates Southern, Southeastern and London Midland, which run in and around London and to the Kent and Sussex coast, and will next month take over Thameslink, the largest contract.

It is bidding in partnership with Keolis; Go-Ahead taking a 65 per cent share for Northern, and a 35 per cent share for TransPennine Express.

Operators must outline in their bids how they plan to provide faster and more frequent trains as the number of passengers rises, and how they will upgrade carriages and improve customer satisfaction.

Winning bidders will be named by October next year and take over the lines early in 2016.

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