Scottish transport giants Stagecoach and FirstGroup are to fight it out with one other bidder to win the new East Midlands rail franchise, which Stagecoach has run since 2007.
The UK Department for Transport said Perth-based Stagecoach and a joint venture of Aberdeen-based FirstGroup and Italy’s Trenitalia have been pre-qualified to bid for the East Midlands franchise from November 2018 alongside Deutsche Bahn-owned Arriva UK Trains.
Stagecoach said the Department for Transport had yet to confirm the length of the new contract, although it had indicated it is likely to be between seven and 15 years.
Stagecoach said the East Midlands franchise incorporates intercity and regional passenger services, with around 470 train services a day and an annual 26 million passengers.
It includes intercity train services on the Midland Main Line — linking Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield with London St Pancras.
A network of local lines serves destinations such as Grantham, Lincoln and Mansfield. The franchise also provides services to Luton Airport and East Midlands Parkway.
“In order to pass the pre-qualification evaluation each of the prospective bidders had to demonstrate that they have the financial strength, safety and operational experience to run this important franchise,” said the Department for Transport.
“In due course, once the ‘invitation to tender’ has been issued, the bidders will be required to submit plans to demonstrate how they will deliver the enhancements for passengers using the East Midland services.
“The department will evaluate the submitted bids to determine passenger benefits, deliverability, and value for money.
“As for all rail franchise competitions, and as is consistent with the Secretary of State’s duty, the department will ensure that alternative plans are in place for the continued running of passenger services in the event that the department determines that the bids would not provide services in the most efficient or economic manner.”
Stagecoach CEO Martin Griffiths said: “The railway in the East Midlands is crucial to the regional economy.
“There is a huge opportunity to build on the network’s success to create new jobs, build the skills of our people and improve connectivity across the region.“
First Rail managing director Steve Montgomery said: “Both ourselves and Trenitalia have extensive expertise of running commuter, regional and long distance services such as those that make up the East Midlands franchise.
“We have a strong track record in delivering continued modernisation and investment, alongside industry partners, through our rail operating companies Great Western Railway, TransPennine Express and Rail Operator of the Year, Hull Trains.”
Trenitalia CEO Barbara Morgante said: “We believe that the experience, competence, innovation and skills of Trenitalia and FirstGroup, developed in international markets, represent a perfect mix to run the East Midlands franchise together.”