Chiltern MBO approved

The franchise to run the Chiltern Railway, the most modern commuter line on the rail network, has been won by M40 Trains, the management buyout team.

The team, led by Adrian Shooter and backed by John Laing and 3i, has been announced by Roger Salmon, the franchising director, as the preferred bidder to run Chiltern which operates trains out of Marylebone to commuter towns such as Aylesbury and High Wycombe, and services to Birmingham.

It is thought the winning team has plans to expand and speed up the Birmingham service, which takes two and a half hours, providing real competition for the West Coast Main Line. There are also suggestions of a shuttle service to London suburbs using older trains.

The line was improved under the "total route modernisation" plan in the early 1990s as an experiment to discover if more reliable services in modern trains attracted more customers to rail and the scheme has proved hugely successful, making the franchise one of the most sought after on the network.

The victory by the management buyout team reverses the recent trend of in-house bids losing out to competitors outside the industry.

Final terms of M40's bid will be negotiated over the next fortnight, and the MBO team will probably start operating services within a couple of months.