FirstGroup and MTR are to work together in a joint venture to bid for the South Western rail franchise, it has been announced.

FirstGroup was shortlisted for the franchise in February and has now been given permission by the Department for Transport (DfT) to work alongside MTR for the bid.

MTR will take a 30 per cent stake in the joint venture.

Both companies have been issued with Pre-Qualification Questionnaire Passports by the DfT, allowing them to compete for different franchise competitions without having to complete the same pre-qualification paperwork each time.

Announcing the joint venture, Steve Montgomery, First Rail managing director, said: “We are pleased that we will be partnering with MTR in a joint venture to bid for the South Western rail franchise, for which we were shortlisted in February 2016.

“We have extensive expertise of running commuter, inter-urban, regional and long distance services – such as those that make up the South Western franchise – and a strong track record in delivering passenger growth.

“MTR run successful suburban and commuter railways; their knowledge from running London Overground and TfL Rail on behalf of Transport for London will add further depth and understanding to an important component of this franchise.

“Together, FirstGroup and MTR will develop an innovative and value for money proposal that will deliver better connectivity and significant improvements for South Western customers. Our bid will keep people moving and communities prospering across the region.”

The new South Western franchise begins in June 2017.

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