French want HS2

Rail (UK) - - Contents - @Clin­nick1

French state op­er­a­tor SNCF will part­ner Vir­gin Trains in a bid for the West Coast Part­ner­ship deal to run from 2019.

FRENCH state op­er­a­tor SNCF will part­ner Vir­gin Trains in a bid for the West Coast Part­ner­ship (WCP) deal.

The French firm will have a 30% share­hold­ing in the bid, with Stage­coach tak­ing 50% and Vir­gin 20%. The cur­rent fran­chise is cur­rently split be­tween Vir­gin (51%) and Stage­coach (49%).

The WCP fran­chise will run from 2019 and will in­clude the first four years of HS2 oper­a­tions. Govern­ment has dic­tated that bid­ders must have pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of oper­at­ing high-speed trains.

“I’m de­lighted that SNCF has come on board, and to­gether we will put forward what we hope is the win­ning bid for the next West Coast, and first HS2, fran­chise,” said Vir­gin Trains Co-Chair­man Patrick McCall.

Martin Grif­fiths, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of Stage­coach Group, said: “This cre­ates a pow­er­ful, world-class part­ner­ship, bring­ing to­gether the team which has trans­formed in­ter-city rail travel in the UK with the most recog­nised and ca­pa­ble high-speed op­er­a­tor in Europe.”

“The new fran­chise has an im­por­tant role to play in de­liv­er­ing the im­prove­ments and space on our rail­way that can sup­port our com­mu­ni­ties and econ­omy. To­gether, we have a very strong track record of work­ing ef­fec­tively with other rail part­ners and in­fras­truc­ture providers, as well as us­ing cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy to achieve a step change in cus­tomer ser­vice,” he added.

Guil­laume Pepy, Chair­man and CEO of SNCF, said:“This is a very ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ment for SNCF. We are world lead­ers in high-speed rail.” He went on to say that the French firm “has a long-stand­ing com­mit­ment of work­ing in part­ner­ship with British com­pa­nies, us­ing their lo­cal knowl­edge and shar­ing our ex­per­tise and ex­pe­ri­ence. We ap­pre­ci­ate Stage­coach’s wide­spread ex­per­tise across a va­ri­ety of trans­port modes and Vir­gin’s rep­u­ta­tion for its renowned cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. In part­ner­ship, we will de­liver a suc­cess­ful HS2 ser­vice for the UK.”

RMT Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Mick Cash was less im­pressed with the an­nounce­ment, say­ing: “This is yet an­other land grab on Bri­tain’s rail­ways by the French state, with SNCF and Richard Bran­son both re­al­is­ing that this new fran­chise will be a one-way ticket to the bank for who­ever comes out on top in this lat­est UK rail lot­tery.

“The in­te­grated HS2/West Coast op­er­a­tion has been bought and paid for by the British peo­ple and should be run by the British state in the public in­ter­est and not by some con­sor­tium of spec­u­la­tors look­ing to make a killing at the tax­pay­ers’ ex­pense.”

An ‘ex­pres­sion of in­ter­est’ was sub­mit­ted by the part­ner­ship on April 24. In­vi­ta­tions to Ten­der will be is­sued by the end of the year.

The an­nounce­ment fol­lows Italian-state op­er­a­tor Tren­i­talia join­ing forces with FirstGroup to bid for WCP.

As­sis­tant Editor Richard Clin­nick richard.clin­nick@bauer­me­

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