In a surprise announcement, Arriva Trains UK Ltd (of which Arriva Trains Wales is a subsidiary) announced it was pulling out of the bid process for the next Wales & Borders Franchise due to begin in late 2018. An email from the Arriva Trains bid team to the Marches Rail Users Alliance indicated that ‘Arriva cannot find a solution that balances the risk and rewards that meet both Arriva’s and Transport for Wales’ requirements’.
Arriva Trains Wales has made continuously healthy profits out of the existing franchise with the minimum of investment. The Welsh Government, are pressing for an innovative approach which is more a partnership than a franchise, the terms of which include an element of profit being ploughed back into developing the system. Undoubtedly Arriva Trains, having had a good profit run, found this somewhat unpalatable.
The Arriva withdrawal leaves three bidders for the franchise: Abellio Rail (Netherlands and Japanese consortium): Keolis Amey (in which the French SNCF have a significant holding): and MTR (a worldwide organisation whose main speciality is urban and metro transit systems).
On the 28 September 2017 an Agency Agreement was signed between the Department of Transport and the Welsh Government covering the mechanisms for dealing with English rail services in a franchise administered by Welsh Government. The MRUA and Rail & Bus for Herefordshire have consistently made representation to both governments about the fact that English communities will not be represented in the Welsh government
We wait in anticipation to see this Agency Agreement work to the benefit of Marches Line travellers.