30 March 2012

Bus Companies Battle for our Trains

“A total of 13 firms are in the running to become the next operators of the Great Western, Thameslink and Essex Thameside rail franchises and introduce better train services, safer stations and more convenient ways to buy tickets.”

Great Western

“The Government is engaged in the biggest programme of refranchising since the privatisation of the railways. Our reformed approach to franchising will give more flexibility to train operators on how they configure services and run their business, within a framework set by the franchise agreement which will protect key outcomes for the passenger, the taxpayer and the economy. We welcome the strong interest shown in these three competitions by the rail industry. A vibrant and competitive market for franchises is an important part of our strategy for improving services for passengers and reducing the cost of running the railway.

“The new Great Western franchise operator will be closely involved in improving rail services following the completion of the electrification and Intercity Express projects.

Department for Transport

Bidders for Great Western franchise:

  • First Great Western Trains Limited (FirstGroup plc)
  • GW Trains Limited (Arriva UK Trains Limited - DB (UK) Investments Limited)
  • NXGW Trains Limited (National Express Group PLC)
  • Stagecoach Great Western Trains Limited (Stagecoach Group plc)

Bidders for Essex Thameside franchise:

  • Abellio Essex Thameside Limited (NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen)
  • First Essex Thameside Limited (FirstGroup plc)
  • MTR Corporation (Essex Thameside) Limited (MTR Corporation Limited)
  • NXET Trains Limited (National Express Group PLC)

Bidders for Thameslink franchise:

  • Abellio Thameslink Limited (NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen)
  • First Thameslink Limited (FirstGroup plc)
  • Govia Thameslink Railway Limited (Go-Ahead Group plc and Keolis SA)
  • MTR Corporation (Thameslink) Limited (MTR Corporation Limited)
  • Stagecoach Thameslink Trains Limited (Stagecoach Group plc)

I do think its a bit of a cheek to describe it as being 13 bidders when the reality is the main bidders are First Group, Arriva, National Express, Stagecoach, Abellio, MTR and Go-Ahead which I count as 7!

So lets concentrate on the Great Western franchise…

Invitations to tender are expected to be issued in May, with the successful bidder being announced in December and the 15-year contract commencing in April 2013. So thats one year from now which isnt that long. We have a straight fight between 4 national bus companies First, Stagecoach, Arriva and National Express. (Its probably being a bit unfair to still call them bus companies but thats how they all started)

First Group states:

“We are delighted to have pre-qualified for all three franchises demonstrating our strength and experience in the rail market. As the current operator of two of the franchises - First Great Western and First Capital Connect – we have a strong track record of delivery and investment in our rail operations. We look forward to building on our position as the UK’s largest rail operator and submitting competitive proposals which meet the needs of customers and taxpayers for these three exciting franchise competitions.”

You could also follow the links below so you can see what the other bidders think, but you will find they are all delighted to have pre-qualified….”

You can see the process which will now be followed in a very dull document HERE (PDF)

I am sure there will be a lot of discussion over the coming year which I will be keeping an eye on as it is kind of important that we get a decent service. We know its the main London – Bristol section which will get the most attention especially as the contracts for the electrification project have just recently be signed so it really is going to happen. It will take years and cost billions but wont help us that much, but at least its a start!

Great Western photo by Matt Thorpe

Related Links

Elsewhere on the net

  • Last March the North West Museum of Road Transport in St.Helens commemorated the Leyland Lynx's quarter century with a running day. They must have enjoyed themselves because a follow-up event was staged recently Transport Illustrated
  • Bouch Builds Boats for Bembridge Public Transport Experience
  • In a month’s time, there’ll be a prime example of First local management trying to turn its fortunes around—in Southampton. Omnibuses
  • here, in all her glory, stands Leyland Olympian C412 HJN, photographed highly likely for the first time since my final photo of her taken in the summer of 2009, taken approaching 3 years ago! PTOTPA
  • The Night Ferry was a sleeping car train that ran daily (nightly?) between London Victoria and Paris Nord, using the freight ferry boats. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the shunting manoeuvres on and off the boats ensured only sporadic sleep! Public Transport Experience
  • Whatever you think of the way the authorities have handled (or induced) the petrol crisis (2012 style) it brings home one important and simple fact: fuel is important. Omnibuses


  1. I hope that Stagecoach or Arriva get the contact the best out of the two!

  2. Arriva are shocking...their Cross country service is appaling!!! I hope First retain it they have done a great job compared to others!!!

  3. In all fairness to First, they've done a lot of work to improve over the last few years!


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