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Thursday 18 December, 2003

Strategic Rail Auth

Northern franchise shortlist

Strategic Rail Authority
18 December 2003

                                                              18 December 2003

                Two Shortlisted for New Northern Rail Franchise

The SRA announced today that two bidders have been shortlisted for the new
Northern Rail franchise, under the terms of its new franchise policy published
last Autumn.

•    The parties are FirstGroup plc and Serco/Ned Railways

•    The new franchise will provide inter-urban, commuter and rural services 
     throughout the North of England, and is planned to start in Autumn 2004

•    It will be of up to eight and three quarter years' duration - the final 
     two years dependent on achieving performance targets

•    The SRA expects to announce a Preferred Bidder in Spring 2004.

Nicola Shaw, the SRA's Managing Director, Operations, said:

'The Northern Rail franchise will be one of the first of a new generation of
customer-focused operations, designed to deliver for passengers.'

'We have selected two strong contenders and the competition will continue to be
robust.  In consultation with the region's Passenger Transport Executives, we
will ensure that the right company is selected to run this new franchise for

Notes to Editors

1.   The qualified bidders announced on 1 April 2003 were: Arriva Trains Ltd, 
     Eurailco UK Ltd (a consortium of Transdev plc & RATP Developpement), First 
     Group plc, Serco Rail/Ned Railways and GB Railways Plc (which has 
     subsequently become a wholly-owned subsidiary of FirstGroup plc).

2.   The SRA announced on 3 February 2003 that Arriva Trains Northern (ATN) will 
     continue to operate services until the Northern Rail franchise commences in 
     Autumn 2004.  It is also intended that First North Western will continue to
     operate relevant services until the Northern Rail franchise commences.

3.   The franchise will incorporate rural and urban services throughout the 
     whole of the North of England, including in and around the Greater 
     Manchester, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Tyne & Wear Passenger 
     Transport Executive (PTE) areas.  It will also be responsible for a number 
     of services running from, and into, the Merseyside PTE area.

4.   Existing ATN inter-urban services on longer journeys between major towns 
     and cities, and Manchester International Airport (MIA) services, as well as 
     some First North Western services also to MIA, will transfer to the new 
     TransPennine Express franchise which is planned to commence in February 
     2004.  The SRA announced on 24 September 2003 that it has signed a 
     franchise agreement with FirstGroup Keolis (FGK) for the TransPennine 
     Express franchise.

For further details contact the SRA Press Office: 020 7654 6339/6862/6387/6234

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