ABELLIO HAS agreed to sell 40% of the Greater Anglia franchise to Japanese firm Mitsui, pending final regulatory approvals. This is the first time a Japanese company has become a shareholder of a British train operator.

Abellio says the move fulfils ‘a long-standing objective of finding a suitable partner to run Greater Anglia in a 60:40 joint venture’, and that it will continue to have a majority stake in the business and be in overall control. The company had originally been shortlisted to bid for the franchise, which began in October, in a 60:40 joint venture with Stagecoach until that company pulled out of the deal, leaving Abellio to bid alone.

Abellio is also partnering with Mitsui and with East Japan Railway Company on its bid for the next West Midlands franchise, which is due to be awarded in October. It says that following this process it felt that Mitsui ‘would be the best partner to help it deliver its ambitious programme to transform the Greater Anglia franchise’.