THREE COMPANIES have been shortlisted by the Department for Transport to bid for the new West Coast Partnership franchise, which will incorporate services on the West Coast main line and the first phase of HS2 operations.

The three bidders are:

■ FirstGroup and Trenitalia in a 70:30 joint venture;

■ a joint venture between MTR and Guangshen Railway, supported by sub-contractors Deloitte, Panasonic, Snowfall, and WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff;

■ a joint venture between Stagecoach, Virgin and SNCF (French Railways), with the companies holding shares of 50%, 20% and 30% respectively.

The new deal is due to begin in April 2019, and bidders were required to have experience of operating high-speed railways along with ‘an excellent track record in customer services’, according to the Department for Transport.

The winning bidder will be responsible for assisting with the design and launch of HS2 services, including developing the timetable and the interior design of the trains. From opening in 2026 of the Phase 1 route between London and Birmingham, the operator is likely to run services for three to five years.

An invitation to tender for the WCP franchise is due to be released in November, with the franchise awarded in November 2018.