A county business leader has said the Government must deliver on transport improvements as the bidders for the West Coast/HS2 franchise were unveiled.
The shortlist for the crucial contract includes current West Coast operator Virgin along with its partners StageCoach and SNCF of France.
They are up against FirstGroup and Italian operator Trenitalia, and the surprise package, a consortium of Hong Kong firm MTR and Guangshen Railway Company, based in China.
The winner of the franchise will be expected to work with HS2 Ltd to launch the first services on the £55.7bn high-speed railway in 2026 and the West Coast line from 2019.
Babs Murphy chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “The region’s ageing road, rail and energy networks need upgrading.
“What business people will want is reassurance that ministers will deliver on the promises already made on business critical infrastructure, including increasing airport capacity, new rail lines such as HS2 and HS3, major electrification programmes in the west and other promised road and rail upgrades.”
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “The West Coast Partnership will support growth and better services on the West Coast Main Line while helping to ensure that HS2 becomes the backbone of Britain’s railways.
“This will create more seats for passengers, improve connections between our great cities, free up space on existing rail lines and generate jobs and economic growth throughout the country.
“I look forward to seeing the bidders’ innovative ideas to put passengers at the heart of the railway.”
Phase 1 of HS2 between London and Birmingham is scheduled to open in December 2026.