Aberdeen-based transport giant FirstGroup said it will make a joint venture bid for the South Western rail franchise with MTR Corporation (UK), following the assent of the UK Department for Transport.
MTR, which will take a 30% stake in the joint venture, currently runs the London Overground in a joint venture with Arriva and runs metro, light rail and airport services around the world.
In February, FirstGroup and Perth-based Stagecoach were shortlisted to compete for the next South Western franchise.
Stagecoach has operated the network under the South West Trains brand since 1996.
The current franchise covers routes between London Waterloo, Reading, Bristol, Exeter, Weymouth and Portsmouth. It also includes the Isle of Wight.
Steve Montgomery, First Rail managing director said: “We are pleased that we will be partnering with MTR in a joint venture to bid for the South Western rail franchise, for which we were shortlisted in February 2016.
“We have extensive expertise of running commuter, inter-urban, regional and long distance services – such as those that make up the South Western franchise – and a strong track record in delivering passenger growth.
“MTR run successful suburban and commuter railways; their knowledge from running London Overground and TfL Rail on behalf of Transport for London will add further depth and understanding to an important component of this franchise.
“Together, FirstGroup and MTR will develop an innovative and value for money proposal that will deliver better connectivity and significant improvements for South Western customers.
“Our bid will keep people moving and communities prospering across the region.”