Four foreign firms bid for Welsh franchise

Four foreign companies have been shortlisted (pre-qualified) by the Welsh Government to bid for the new Wales & Borders franchise and Metro. The franchise will commence in October 2018 following a public consultation in early 2017 and a contract award later in the year.

The four bidders are:

  • Abellio Rail Cymru (owned by Dutch state railways, NS)
  • Arriva Trains Wales (owned by German state railways, DB)
  • Keolis Amey (Keolis is 75% owned by French state railways, SNCF; Amey is a UK company owned by Spanish construction giant Ferrovial)
  • MTR Corporation (Cymru) Ltd (a Hong Kong based company)

The procurement process will be managed by Transport for Wales, a wholly-owned not-for-profit company established by the Welsh Government (and broadly based on the Transport for London model).

The franchise will also cover the rail aspects of the (South Wales) Metro scheme; this is a proposal to integrate heavy rail, light rail and bus services in and around the Cardiff area.

Incumbent operator  Arriva Trains Wales has held the franchise since 2003.

Ken Skates, the Welsh Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, said:

“I am pleased with the way we are taking forward our ambitious plans to transform rail services in Wales.  The new Wales and borders service from 2018 and the next phase of the Metro are part of an ambitious and creative not for profit model that we are building for Welsh rail.

“Over the next 10 years I envisage significant strides in the delivery of our public transport network including the electrification of the Swansea, Valleys and North Wales lines, a South and North Wales Metro and widespread structural improvements that are already in the pipeline.

“The priorities for the next franchise will include updated rolling stock, reduced journey times and the use of modern technology and approaches to deliver an improved service for passengers across Wales.”

But the TSSA rail union slammed the announcement, condemning the domination of foreign companies:

“This preferred bidder list shows how immoral the economics of British railways has become. Wales should not be maintained as another nation’s rail colony . . . All these (foreign) companies want to come here to harvest the profits to be made in Wales but repatriate them for reinvestment them in their own nations. Profits made in Wales should be reinvested to reduce fares In Wales and modernising and expanding the rail service in Wales not Berlin, Hong Kong, Paris or Amsterdam.”


The new franchise should see electrification of the Welsh Valley lines.
The new franchise should see electrification of most Welsh Valley lines.

Welsh Government announcement

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