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Companies invited to submit bids for West Coast Partnership

West Coast passengers will benefit from improved accessibility, simpler fares and improved compensation, transport secretary Chris Grayling has announced as he invited companies to bid for the brand-new franchise.

Organisations have been invited to submit a bid to run the new West Coast Partnership by 13 July, as Grayling unveiled a new vision that could see HS2 become a fully integrated railway with a single organisation running all aspects of the service.

Tickets, trains, track maintenance, as well as other infrastructure such as signalling, will all be managed by one body, which the DfT argues will deliver the best possible passenger service.

The successful bidder will not only drive improvements on the current services on the existing West Coast line, but will also oversee the introduction of HS2 services from 2026 and work with DfT and HS2 to consider future options.

In June last year, the government announced the shortlist of companies who will compete for the franchise, which included joint ventures First Trenitalia West Coast Ltd, MTR West Coast Partnership Ltd, and West Coast Partnership Ltd.

Bidders have been challenged to innovate in order to improve passenger service on the railway, and the DfT has said that, as a minimum, passengers will see improved accessibility, simpler fares, modern ticketing and improved compensation.

The winning bidder will also run the existing West Coast Main Line (WCML) services until HS2 services are introduced, at which point they will continue to run successor services on the WCML until 2031 – albeit “to a different set of timetables and priorities, with a refocused service aimed at those intermediate locations.”

Between now and the start of HS2, the winning company will also help plan the introduction of the express trains to the new line and the move from one line to the other.

“The new West Coast Partnership will deliver immediate benefits to passengers and pave the way for the seamless introduction of HS2, with one operator responsible for all aspects of the journey, designed to deliver the best-possible passenger service,” Grayling said.

“While the exact shape and end-state of the organisation does not need to be decided now, I am very clear of one thing, I want HS2 to become a strong, British organisation, potentially capable of not just building but also operating a successful railway here. It should also become a strong international champion for the UK – in the way, for example, that the organisation that runs Manchester Airport has.”

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