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EXTRA: Stagecoach Teams Up To Bid For UK West Coast Rail Franchise

Tue, 25th Apr 2017 11:27

PARIS (Alliance News) - Stagecoach Group PLC and Virgin Group said they are joining forces with French high speed operator SNCF to bid for the West Coast Partnership rail franchise.

Stagecoach shares were struggling to gain ground, trading up 0.1% on Tuesday at 214.20 pence, having hit a high of 214.60 pence earlier in the day.

The UK government has announced that the West Coast Partnership franchise will run from 2019. The franchise will include current West Coast services and the first few years of operation of High Speed 2, or HS2, services.

The government unveiled the new rail franchise in November aimed at combining the current InterCity West Coast services with the development and introduction of HS2 services.

"The franchise, which will run for the first three to five years of operation of HS2, is the first step in attracting a world-class bidding group to develop and enhance the service for West Coast passengers and pave the way for the introduction of HS2 services in the future," the government said in November.

The new franchise will be responsible for services on both the West Coast Main Line from 2019 and designing and running the initial high speed services from 2026, according to the UK government.

Stagecoach has a 50% share in the bid vehicle, West Coast Partnership Ltd, with a 30% share held by SNCF, and the remaining 20% is owned by Virgin. It is envisaged that services under a successful bid would carry the Virgin brand.

"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," said Stagecoach Chief Executive Martin Griffiths.

"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.

Virgin, Stagecoach and SNCF have already worked together on the first stage of the West Coast Partnership bid. The partners will now prepare for the invitation to tender, which is expected to be issued by the end of the year.

The government has previously said the invitation to tender would be issued in October or November 2017.

Guillaume Pepy, the chairman and chief executive of SNCF, said the business appreciates Stagecoach's widespread expertise across a variety of transport modes and Virgin's reputation for its renowned customer experience.

SNCF is a global leader in passenger and freight transport services with revenue of EUR32.3 billion in 2016, of which one-third was from international markets.

Stagecoach already operates South West Trains, Island Line and East Midlands Trains networks in the UK, while holding a 49% stake in Virgin Rail Group which operates the West Coast franchise and a 90% stake in Virgin Trains East Coast on the East Coast rail franchise.

Copyright RTT News/dpa-AFX

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