Post by Graeme Wall
Talk of spinning off First Bus and reviewing First Rail to concentrate
on North America.
More in The Times:
Specifically, however First restructures itself, it is likely to wind down
its UK rail operations. It would probably keep GWR and TPE till the end of
their franchises. However, the SWR operation is in real financial trouble,
and it looks like First (and MTR?) may write off their sureties, and pull
out, like Stagecoach did with VTEC.
That has interesting consequences for the West Coast Partnership franchise,
for which there were three short-listed bidders:
1. First Trenitalia West Coast Rail Ltd, a joint venture between FirstGroup
(70%) and Italian state operator Trenitalia (30%) — presumably now to
withdraw, unless Trenitalia takes it over 100%;
2. West Coast Partnership Ltd, a joint venture between Stagecoach (50%),
Virgin (30%) and SNCF (20%) — already excluded by the DfT, with a law suit
3. MTR West Coast Partnership Ltd, a joint venture of Hong Kong’s MTR Corp
and Guangshen Railway Co — will MTR be excluded by the DfT if it hands back
the keys at SWR?
So, the DfT might, at best, have one 100% Chinese bidder left for the West
Coast franchise and the shiny new HS2 trains (assuming the new Tory leader
doesn't cancel it). There won't be any British involvement in the TOC.
Somehow, I think the government might find it a hard sell for the new HS2
line to be run entirely by the Chinese, after a non-competitve bid.