New franchise for high-speed trains through Lancashire

An image showing part of the proposed HS2 route

An image showing part of the proposed HS2 route

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HS2 high-speed rail services will be run by the same operator as the West Coast Main Line, the Government announced today

The new franchise – the West Coast Partnership – will cover services on the west coast route from 2019 and running the initial high-speed trains between London and the West Midlands from 2026.

The contract will run for the first three to five years of HS2’s operation.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “We are embarking on a new chapter in our modernisation of the railways and we need world-class expertise to deliver it.

“HS2 will be the backbone of Britain’s railways, creating more seats for passengers on the West Coast and increasing capacity on the rest of the network.

“By combining the franchise we are ensuring we get the right people on board at an early stage to design and manage the running of both services in the transition stage.

“The new franchise will attract highly experienced companies, who have the right experience, which ultimately means a better deal for passengers - both now and in the future.”

The West Coast Main Line is currently operated by Virgin Trains - a joint venture between Stagecoach and Virgin.

It is hoped that HS2 will reduce overcrowding on the existing network and generate economic growth across the country.

Virgin Trains will be awarded a new short-term contract of approximately 12 months to continue operating West Coast services following the end of the current franchise in 2018.

An invitation to tender will be issued by the Department for Transport in October or November next year, which will set out what it wants from the winning bidder.