Go-Ahead bid for Chiltern rail rejected

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The Independent Online

THE BID by the transport group Go-Ahead for the Chiltern Railway franchise has been rejected, the shadow Strategic Rail Authority (SSRA) will announce today.

THE BID by the transport group Go-Ahead for the Chiltern Railway franchise has been rejected, the shadow Strategic Rail Authority (SSRA) will announce today.

It is understood that the strong criticism of Go-Ahead's subsidiary Thames Trains at the inquiry into the Paddington rail disaster was one of the main reasons for the rejection. Thames came under fire over the inadequate instruction given to the driver of a commuter service which collided with a Great Western express, killing 31 people, in October last year.

In the first franchise renewal announcement since privatisation in 1996, the authority will say that M40, the John Laing subsidiary now running the Chiltern operation, will be the "preferred owner" of the licence. News of the successful bidder will be announced to the stock exchange this morning.

M40 has been awarded a 20-year extension to its London to Birmingham commuter franchise in return for its intended £400m investment in trains, stations and tracks. It has promised to increase frequency and enhance safety of its services from London Marylebone to Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Birmingham.

It has also promised to cut the journey time between London and Birmingham to compete with Virgin's InterCity services and build a new "park and ride" station in the West Midlands at Warwick Parkway.

Go-Ahead, a bus and train operator based in the North-east, is also awaiting a verdict on its joint bid with Via GTI for the Connex South Central licence, where it stands a better chance. Last month Go-Ahead rejected a £332m takeover approach from Caisse des Depots et Consignations of France and the private equity fund Rhone Capital.

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