TfL have announced that four firms have been shortlisted for the Crossrail Concession. The shortlisted firms are:
- Arriva Crossrail Limited
- Keolis/Go Ahead
- MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Limited
- National Express Group PLC
FirstGroup, RATP and Stagecoach were eliminated from the process at this stage.
Crossrail will be operated on the Concession model, similar to London Overground where it has proved highly successful. In a nutshell this means that TfL will set clear goals and objectives for the line, with a relatively fixed price being paid to the operator for delivering the services required to meet those objectives. The risk of financial or performance issues is thus largely absorbed by TfL rather than the operator. Theoretically this allows the operator to focus on service, rather than attempting to recover the cost of operation (and any profits) during the contract period. By removing a significant percentage of the risk burden from the operator, the cost of the contract can also be lower.
The model has proved highly successful on the Overground, both for TfL and LOROL as operator. It is thus perhaps no surprise to see both MTR and Arriva on the list of shortlisted firms – as LOROL is in fact an MTR/Arriva Joint Venture. What’s perhaps more surprising is that both firms appear separately – there has been no indication, publicly at least, that they have been unhappy in the LOROL partnership, and the combination of metro (MTR) and suburban (Arriva) experience that both parties bring to that partnership would have again seemed an excellent fit here. Perhaps MTR now feel “blooded” by the Overground experience and are now more confident about their ability to deliver within the UK on their own.
Whatever the thinking, MTR’s Overground experience, combined with their extensive knowledge of working with metro systems (in Hong Kong) arguably makes them a strong favourite for the contract, on paper at least.
The award of that contract will come swiftly. The Invitation to Tender will be officially issued in September, and the contract itself awarded at the end of 2014. It’s vital this deadline be met, as the Crossrail Concession is due to commence in May 2015 when the Concessionaire will take over the Liverpool Street – Shenfield services currently operated by Greater Anglia. The timetable for transfer of services beyond this is still not fully defined, but Heathrow Connect services will be taken over in May 2018, and operation through Crossrail’s central section is due to start shortly after.
The Concessionaire will also have to make do with existing rolling stock until 2015, when delivery of Crossrail’s own new rolling stock is scheduled to begin. The process of tendering for that continues, and Crossrail will no doubt have looked on the apparent resolution of the ongoing Thameslink rolling stock saga with some relief.