DUTCH national railways Nederlandse Spoorwegen subsidiary Abellio has become the first potential bidder for the next ScotRail franchise to throw its hat into the ring.
• Abellio announces bid to succeed FirstGroup
• Competition to run ScotRail franchise to be launched early next year
• Stagecoach are another potential bidder
The firm said it was also interested in ScotRail’s Caledonian Sleeper business, which will be split off to be let as a separate, 15-year franchise.
Abellio currently runs the Merseyrail, Northern Rail and Greater Anglia train operating franchises in England, and was one of four shortlisted bidders in the contest for the west coast main line franchise, which was abandoned last month because of mishandling by the Department for Transport.
The Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency is due to launch the competition for a new ten-year ScotRail franchise from 2014 early next year. It has been run since 2004 by Aberdeen-based FirstGroup.
Other potential bidders include Perth-based Stagecoach, which runs several English franchises.
ScotRail carried 81m passengers in 2011-12 in the eighth successive year of growth.
Abellio was spun off 175-year-old Nederlandse Spoorwegen in 2001 to bid for transport franchises in other European countries. It also runs bus firm Abellio London & Surrey.
In a letter to interested parties, Dominic Booth, its managing director UK said: “I believe this experience and the enormous pool of expertise offered by our parent company position Abellio well to run the new franchises on behalf of Scotland.
“Northern Rail in particular shares many of the characteristics of the ScotRail service.
“On all our networks we enjoy extremely strong relationships with the local transport authorities.
“This is no accident as it is a guiding principle of the Abellio way of working to establish local partnerships based on trust and transparency.
“In our experience this is the key route to investment and the development of services for passengers.”
A FirstGroup spokesman said: “As a Scottish company and the UK’s largest rail operator, we have strong track record of delivery and investment, and are committed to operating Scottish rail services in partnership with Transport Scotland, now and in the future.”