Key rail bidders question new structure

Roger Salmon, the rail regulator: bidders believe the train operators should control track, stations and signalling, too

Two key bidders for the flagship of the Government's rail privatisation programme yesterday questioned fundamental principles of the way the new railway system is to be run.

As the bid deadline for the franchises for running the first three passenger rail services closed, Sea Containers, the shipping group, said that assets run by Railtrack - track, signalling and stations - should be put back under the control of the train operators.

Stagecoach, the quoted bus company which pre-qualified for all three franchises, also said it was concerned about being unable to control track and signalling, and saw the next few months as an opportunity to negotiate a solution.

Their attitudes are bound to embarrass Sir George Young, the transport minister, as the Government continues to defend the structure of the complex rail privatisation against political and business attacks.

Railtrack is slotted for a pounds 2.5bn flotation next spring, and the Government is fighting to keep to the timetable.

Sea Containers, one of more than six groups believed to have pre-qualified by yesterday's deadline, said it was interested in two of the franchises - Great Western Trains and South West Trains. It was not interested in the third franchise, LTS Rail, which operates services from London to Southend and Tilbury.

In a surprise announcement, Sea Containers said it would not bid for South West Trains alone. While Great Western could be run as a separate entity, South West was burdened with heavy loss-making short haul commuter services.

James Sherwood, president of Sea Containers, said "the great unknown" was Railtrack. "It is worrying for the train operator not to have the track, signalling and stations used by it under its direct control."

If Sea Containers' bid were successful it would try to lease these assets "on a full repairing basis because maintenance and operation could then be assured at the lowest cost".

Brian Cox, who heads Stagecoach's rail interests, said: "We would like to see Railtrack decentralised."

However, the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising, which is overseeing the bid process, is unlikely to agree to lease Railtrack assets to the train operators or see the structure broken up. Sea Containers' move is likely to be seen as a sighting shot to win more limited concessions from Railtrack.

Opraf yesterday refused to reveal bidders, but other bidders are thought to include London & Continental, a consortium which includes National Express and Virgin Group.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own