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West Coast Partnership

This franchise has replaced the former Virgin Trains contract.

Invitation to tender for Intercity West Coast had been expected November 2016 and a contract award in November 2017 for a start date of April 2018, but on 4 November 2016 the DfT announced that the next franchise would be called the ‘West Coast Partnership’ and include HS2 when high speed services started (projected for 2026). The existing Intercity West Coast franchise was simultaneously extended by a further 12 months to April 2019 and was then extended again in December 2018 to 1 April 2020 (now 8 December 2019).

Expressions of Interest, December 2016
Shortlisted bidders announced 22 June 2017
Invitations to Tender, October/November 2017
Formal bids due, July 2018
Franchise start, 1 April 2020

The principal bidders were:
(1) First Trenitalia West Coast Ltd, a joint venture between First Rail Holdings Ltd and Trenitalia SpA
(2) MTR West Coast Partnership Ltd, a joint venture between MTR Corporation (UK) Ltd and Guangshen Railway Company
(3) West Coast Partnership Ltd, a joint venture between Stagecoach Group plc (50%), Virgin Holdings Ltd (20%) and SNCF-C3 (30%).

For full details see DfT announcement.

On 10 April 2019 the DfT announced that the bid involving Stagecoach had been disqualified from the shortlist for lodging a ‘non-compliant’ proposal in relation to pension provision. (See Railnews report 10 April 2019.)

The West Coast Partnership was awarded to a consortium of FirstGroup and Trenitalia (70:30) on 14 August 2019 and is expected to run until at least 2031. However, the initial franchise is to be replaced by a management contract when Phase 1 of HS2 is opened, provisionally in 2026. There is also a break point in 2026.

start date
8 December 2019
end date

owned by

service area
Long distance services: London Euston-Rugby-(Trent Valley)/Birmingham and Wolverhampton/Stoke-on-Trent-Crewe-Chester-WrexhamManchester/Liverpool/Holyhead/Glasgow. London-Blackpool North/Shrewsbury. From 2026 (projected) also High Speed services: London Euston-Birmingham International-Birmingham Curzon, and Birmingham-Crewe from 2027 or 2028.

Virgin Trains


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