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Shortlist for Northern and TPE franchises revealed

The successful operators shortlisted to run the Northern Rail and TransPennine Express (TPE) franchises, which are due to commence in February 2016, have been revealed by the Department for Transport.

Three companies have been shortlisted to run the Northern franchise, while three companies are being considered for the TPE franchise. The shortlisted bidders to run the two franchises are:


  • Abellio Northern Ltd
  • Arriva Rail North Limited
  • Govia Northern Limited

TransPennine Express

  • First Trans Pennine Express Limited
  • Keolis Go-Ahead Limited
  • Stagecoach Trans Pennine Express Trains Limited 

All of these companies have successfully passed the pre-qualification stage, and will now be asked to develop their plans for the franchises before they receive the government’s ‘Invitation to Tender’ in December. 

Rail minister Claire Perry said: “The north is undergoing a real rail renaissance, and we will be asking these companies to come up with innovative and ambitious proposals that will ensure a truly world-class rail network for the region.” 

The Northern franchise is currently operated by a joint venture between Abellio and Serco, however the companies said they would make separate bids to operate the Northern franchise earlier this year. 

Dominic Booth, Abellio UK’s managing director told RTM: “Abellio has been serving the north of England for over 10 years, and we are determined to continue that relationship long into the future. 

“The vision of a new UK economic powerhouse driven by the great cities of the north of England can only be realised through an approach that will include at its heart stronger and more reliable rail connectivity.”

On hearing the news of the shortlist, Arriva chief executive David Martin said that the company has an excellent track record in the UK’s rail market and submitted a strong expression of interest for the Northern franchise. 

“We are delighted to be invited to tender for the concession and will be creating an innovative, winning bid which draws on our experience in the UK and across mainland Europe,” he said. 

Bidders will be expected to show how they will make the most of the government’s £1bn investment programme for the rail network in the north of England, which will provide faster and more reliable journeys, more capacity, better trains and improved connections for passengers. 

With regards to the TPE franchise, FirstGroup currently holds the contract, having originally been awarded it in 2004. After being shortlisted again for the franchise, Vernon Barker, managing director for UK Rail at FirstGroup, said: “We look forward to reviewing the contract details and submitting a compelling and value for money bid which meets the needs of taxpayers as well as customers and businesses along the route.” 

A Stagecoach spokesperson added that the company was delighted to have been shortlisted by the DfT.  

Both franchises are due to be awarded by October 2015, and the new operators will be expected to work closely with Rail North, which represents the region’s local authorities, to ensure local rail users will have more influence in how their train services are run. 

Sir Richard Leese, for Rail North, said: “The companies on the shortlists demonstrate the interest there is in meeting Rail North's desire to see the railway acting as an economic driver in the north of England. 

“We look forward to working with the bidders to deliver strong franchises for passengers, which reflect the aims and objectives of our Long Term Rail Strategy and the predicted growth in patronage.” 

A public consultation into the future of rail services in the north closed yesterday and responses will be taken into account as the franchise proposals are developed further ahead of the Invitations to Tender in December. 

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