THE French, Italian, Chinese and Dutch state railways have been shortlisted for the latest private rail bonanzas — but the British state is still banned from bidding.
The government announced that partnerships involving the French state had been shortlisted for both the West Coast Partnership and the new South Eastern franchise — despite its stake in failing train operator Southern.
Italian state railway Trenitalia is also in the running for both — on its own for South Eastern and in a joint venture with private transport giant FirstGroup for West Coast, which will run the initial High Speed 2 services from 2026.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: "I look forward to seeing the bidders’ innovative ideas to put passengers at the heart of the railway."
But rail union RMT leader Mick Cash was scathing, saying: "This rotten minority government have learnt nothing.
"It is a scandal that the cheaper, more efficient public-sector option has been excluded from the bidding process for these two major rail franchises.
"This morning, the same old gang of chancers, rip-off merchants and overseas opportunists have been lined up for another invitation to jam their snouts in the trough at the British passenger’s expense."
The new West Coast Partnership will be responsible for both the existing West Coast main line and the development of High Speed 2.