South West

FirstGroup has announced plans to form a joint venture (JV) with MTR UK to bid for the South Western rail franchise.

MTR UK will own a 30% stake in the JV, which is awaiting approval from the UK Department for Transport (DfT).

The proposed JV will compete with Stagecoach South West. This company is the current operator for the South Western rail franchise under the South West Trains brand. The current franchise covers urban, suburban, regional, and long-distance routes between London Waterloo, Reading, Bristol, Exeter, Weymouth, and Portsmouth, as well as the Island Line on the Isle of Wight.

"The proposed JV will compete with Stagecoach South West, the current operator for the South Western rail franchise."

In February this year, Stagecoach South West and FirstGroup were shortlisted by the DfT for the contract, which will run for seven to nine years with an option for a one-year extension.

First Rail managing director Steve Montgomery said: "Together, FirstGroup and MTR will develop an innovative and value for money proposal, which will deliver better connectivity and significant improvements for South Western customers. Our bid will keep people moving and communities prospering across the region."

In a joint venture with Arriva, MTR already operates London overground services from Clapham Junction. The MTR-Arriva JV has also been selected to operate the new Crossrail/Elizabeth Line service and run TfL Rail services from London Liverpool Street station.

Image: South West Trains’ 444001 approaches Clapham Junction. Photo: courtesy of Andrew Butcher via Wikipedia.