BR seeks bids for eight franchises

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Eight parts of the British Rail network will be the first to be offered to private bidders for franchising, writes Christian Wolmar.

A very tight schedule was announced yesterday by Roger Salmon, the franchising director, who has been asked by the Government to ensure that 51 per cent of the network is offered for franchising by 31 March 1996.

Companies interested in bidding for franchises will have to register their interest by the end of March 1995 and specifications will be issued in April.

The remaining 17 areas of the rail network are expected to be franchised over the following two years. The franchisees will be responsible for running services but not for the track, which will continue to belong to Railtrack. All franchises are expectedto require subsidy from the Government.

The eight sections of BR earmarked for early franchising are: n South West trains: London commuter lines out of Waterloo n InterCity East Coast: High speed services between King's Cross, and Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

n Network SouthCentral: London commuter services primarily to south London, Sussex and Surrey.

n Great Western: InterCity services from Paddington to south Wales, Bristol and Penzance.

n ScotRail: Most of Scotland's rail services, including sleepers.

n Midland Main Line: InterCity service between St Pancras and Leicester, Derby and Sheffield.

n Services between London Fenchurch Street and Southend and other parts of Essex.

n Gatwick Express: Shuttle service between London Victoria and Gatwick airport.