Abellio has announced the planned sale of a 40 per cent stake in its Greater Anglia rail franchise to Japan’s Mitsui.
The announcement comes less than a week after Italy’s state-owned rail operator, Trenitalia, acquired the UK’s c2c franchise from National Express.
Subject to regulatory approvals, Mitsui will become the first Japanese company to own shares in a British train operating company.
Like Trenitalia and National Express, Mitsui had already been working with Abellio on a joint bid for another franchise agreement.
Unlike Trenitalia and National Express, Abellio will retain a majority share in the franchise and will remain in control of the company.
Rail union RMT has responded negatively to the announcement. General secretary Mick Cash questioned the robustness of the Department for Transport’s franchising programme “when the winning bidder can simply walk away, share out its responsibilities and choose its replacement whenever it sees fit”.
A DfT spokesperson said in a statement that the government would only approve the partial sale “once both parties have satisfied us that passengers will benefit from it”.
Abellio has run the Greater Anglia franchise since 2012 and was awarded a new nine-year deal in August 2016. The new franchise includes the introduction of more than 1,000 new carriages, which will be supplied by Bombardier and Stadler, by the end of 2020.
Dominic Booth, managing director of Abellio, said: “We are delighted to have reached agreement with Mitsui, fulfilling our long standing objective of running the franchise as a 60:40 joint venture.
“With the introduction of Mitsui’s knowledge and experience, we look forward to delivering significant improvements for Greater Anglia’s customers, including through the introduction of a brand new fleet.”