The shortlist of bidders for the combined West Coast Mainline and HS2 franchise has been announced, and whichever bid wins, a nationalised railway will have a part in running it, just a nationalised railway from another country.
It has long been a source of irritation for some that state railways have been running parts of the UK rail network, and using those profits to subsidise their home networks, and HS2 will be no different as the choice is to have either the French, Italian or Chinese national railway operators involved.
Two of the franchise bids are joint bids with UK based operators; ‘First Trenitalia West Coast’ is a joint venture between First Rail Holdings and Italy’s Trenitalia, and ‘West Coast Partnership’ is a joint venture between Stagecoach Group, Virgin Holdings Ltd and French state rail operator SNCF.
However, the one which has caused the most controversy is the ‘MTR West Coast Partnership’, a joint venture between state-owned Hong Kong MTR Corporation and China’s Guangshen Railway Company. Given that George Osborne launched the HS2 construction tendering process on a visit to China, it is hardly a surprise that a bid has come in from there.