Aberdeen-based transport giant FirstGroup has joined forces with Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation in support of its bid to run one of the UK’s busiest rail networks.
The pair hope to start running South Western trains – serving a market extending from central and south-west London to towns and cities in Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey and Wiltshire – from June 2017.
About 14% of all UK rail journeys are on the South Western network, which also operates on the Isle of Wight and has nearly 1,700 trains a day serving more than 200 stations.
The franchise is currently held by Perth-based Stagecoach Group, which is also bidding for a new long-term deal.
FirstGroup rail managing director Steve Montgomery said: “We have extensive expertise of running commuter, inter-urban, regional and long distance services – such as those that make up the South Western franchise – and a strong track record in delivering passenger growth.
“MTR run successful suburban and commuter railways. Their knowledge from running London overground and TfL (Transport for London) Rail … will add further depth and understanding to an important component of this franchise.
“Together, FirstGroup and MTR will develop an innovative and value for money proposal that will deliver better connectivity and significant improvements for South Western customers.”
MTR, which has a 30% stake in the joint-venture, is one of the world’s leading operators of metro, commuter and airport rail systems.