Three battle for rail supremacy

WHEN the Strategic Rail Authority announced its pre-qualifiers for the Greater Anglia franchise, most of the attention was focussed on a company that didn't qualify rather than three who did.

WHEN the Strategic Rail Authority announced its pre-qualifiers for the Greater Anglia franchise, most of the attention was focussed on a company that didn't qualify rather than three who did.

While current Great Eastern operators FirstGroup failed to pre-qualify, Anglia Railways' owners GB Railways, West Anglia owner National Express and Arriva Trains – which operates services in northern England – were successful.

The news immediately boosted GB Railways share price – it shot up by seven per cent to 126.5p a share.

And the company's bosses were delighted to have got over the first hurdle.


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"We are now going forward with drawing up plans for the Greater Anglia franchise.

"We are pleased that our success over the last six years was recognised by the SRA," said a company spokesman.

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Like other bidding companies, he was not prepared to comment on the news that FirstGroup had failed to pre-qualify – but staff recognise a major rival has been taken out of the equation.

GB Railways, which a year ago was in financial intensive care, has made a storming comeback on the Alternative Investment Market over the last 12 months and many industry experts see it as the favourite to win the Greater Anglia franchise – which will run all the trains out of Liverpool Street Station to East Anglia for the next 10 years.

Second favourite now is National Express, Britain's largest rail operator, which currently runs the West Anglia Great Northern services operating from London to Cambridge, Peterborough and Kings Lynn.

A spokesman for the company's London Lines subsidiary said it was delighted to have pre-qualified and had been working on plans for services throughout the region for the last year.

The apparent outsider in the race is Arriva, which runs services in north east England and on Merseyside.

It is remaining tight-lipped on its plans for the region, managing director Euan Cameron would only say: "We are pleased to have pre-qualified for the Greater Anglia franchise.

"We are looking forward to working with the SRA to develop proposals for the future of rail services in the Greater Anglia franchise."

The SRA's document setting out the level of service to be provided in the region is due to be published later this month, and the companies will then put in their bids.

The winner is due to be announced towards the end of this year and the new franchise is due to come into effect from April 2004.

However some people in the industry think this could be delayed until the end of the summer 2004 until after vital improvement work which will close Ipswich tunnel for up to seven weeks in the summer.

nWhat do you think of the rail franchise race? Will it make any difference to passengers? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

weblinks: www.gbrailways.com

www.londonlines.co.uk

www.arriva.co.uk

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