National Express loses second rail franchise

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The Independent Online

Transport giant National Express, which had one of its rail routes taken over by the Department for Transport (DfT), has learned it will have to give up another of its rail franchises from next year.

National Express had bid to carry on running its East Anglia franchise, having had to relinquish operation of its East Coast franchise in 2009.

Today, the DfT announcement of a shortlist of three companies who would contest the East Anglia bidding showed National Express had not made it to this point.

"We did bid and we are disappointed we didn't get on to the shortlist," said a National Express spokesman.

Financial difficulties led to the taking back into the public sector of the East Coast franchise. National Express also operates the London to Tilbury and Southend line, c2c.

Competing for Greater Anglia, as the East Anglia franchise is officially known, are Nederlandse Spoorwegen and two transport companies already with experience of running franchises, the Go-Ahead Group and Stagecoach.

The Greater Anglia franchise will start on February 5 2012 and will run for 17 months, with an option to extend by up to one year.

The DfT said this shorter franchise will allow time for reforms arising from the current McNulty review into rail value for money to be properly considered and built into the terms of a subsequent Greater Anglia franchise.

The Dft also announced today the shortlist for the West Coast franchise which showed the current operator, Virgin Trains, faces a stiff fight.

Virgin has operated the West Coast main line since 1997 but having made a short-list of four, it will come up against another transport giant, FirstGroup, which already runs a number of franchises.

Also on the shortlist is Dutch company Nederlandse Spoorwegen and a joint venture between French rail company SNCF and French company Keolis SA.

The new West Coast franchise will start on April 1 2012 and run for 14 years, with an option to extend for a further year.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said "We welcome the fact that Nat Express are off the tracks in East Anglia.

"But the merry-go-round of rail franchising takes another spin and whoever the winners are from these latest beauty contests it certainly won't be the travelling public."

He added that the politicians had "clearly learnt nothing from the debacle of the East Coast franchise".