FORMER ScotRail chief Mary Grant is to bid to win back the franchise for National Express after the firm was today shortlisted along with incumbents FirstGroup, Dutch rail offshoot Abellio, Arriva and MTR of Hong Kong.
Mrs Grant will attempt to re-capture the franchise for a second time after securing it for Aberdeen-based FirstGroup in 2004 from National Express.
She was ScotRail managing director for five years before moving to head the group’s rail division in 2011, and joined National Express this summer.
The bids will have to be lodged next Spring and the winner announced in the autumn.
Transport minister Keith Brown said: “I have invited five experienced rail companies to bid, each of whom demonstrated in its response to the pre-qualification questionnaire an understanding of, and a commitment to realise, our ambitions for a transformed rail service.
“I am convinced this strong competition will deliver a great public rail service for the people of Scotland.”
Vernon Barker, FirstGroup managing director, UK Rail, said: “As a Scottish company, we are proud to run Scotland’s railway and proud of our success in growing the business.
“The railway is integral to Scotland’s growing and ambitious economy and we look forward to submitting a compelling, competitive and value for money bid which meets the needs of customers, businesses and taxpayers.”
National Express chief executive Dean Finch said: “We are focused on delivering a strong bid that meets Scotland’s rightly ambitious aspirations for excellent customer service and enhances the railway’s contribution to economic, environmental and social objectives.”
Abellio UK managing director Dominic Booth said: “From the outset we have set out to connect with and understand the importance of this franchise to the public, businesses and a host of other organisations across the whole of Scotland and we view this as a tremendous opportunity for us.
“Abellio UK and our parent company NS have the combined experience of what it takes to deliver a national rail service which Scotland clearly has.”
Arriva UK managing director Bob Holland said: “We place the utmost importance in developing transparent and trusting relationships that support the delivery of quality services for passengers and will maximise rail’s contribution to Scotland.
“In our bid we will detail how we plan to deliver these services, while maintaining continuous improvement relating to performance and punctuality. We will focus on transport integration and innovative approaches to improving the whole customer experience, to encourage more people to travel by train.”
Jeremy Long, chief executive European Business for MTR, and another former FirstGroup rail division chief, said: “Providing vital services for the growing number of people in Scotland travelling by rail will be an exciting challenge for whoever wins the franchise.
“This shortlisting demonstrates the recognition MTR is gaining in the UK for the quality of its train services both here and internationally.”