Go-Ahead bids for two franchises

GO-AHEAD, the owner of one of the rail companies involved in the Paddington crash, is bidding to take over two more rail franchises in the South-east, it emerged yesterday.

The franchising director, Mike Grant, said that Go-Ahead, the operator of Thames Trains and Thameslink, had pre-qualified to bid for the Connex South Central and Chiltern Railways passenger franchises. The Paddington crash, in which 31 people died, was caused by a Thames Train driver passing a signal at danger and colliding with an InterCity train operated by Great Western Trains.

Connex South Central is being offered along with two other franchises - Great North Eastern Railway and Chiltern Railways - in the first batch of franchise renewals.

The other two bidders for Connex South Central are its existing franchisee, the French-owned Connex Rail, and Stagecoach, which owns South West Trains. The rival bidders for Chiltern are Arriva, the north-east based bus operator, and the existing franchisee, M40 Trains, a subsidiary of the Laing construction group.

Interest in bidding for Great North Eastern Railway is not as great as had been hoped, with only Richard Branson's Virgin Rail Group pre-qualifying in conjunction with Stagecoach.