French want HS2
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 firstname.lastname@example.org