HS2 high-speed rail services will be run by same operator as the West Coast Line.
The government has announced a new rail franchise combining the current InterCity West Coast main line with HS2 high-speed services.
The new partnership will be called the West Coast Partnership. It will cover services on the West Coast route from 2019 and run the initial high-speed trains between London and Birmingham from 2026.
The contract will run for the first three to five years of HS2’s operation.
The West Coach franchise is currently run by Virgin Trains as a joint venture between Stagecoach and Virgin.
The government will invite tenders for the new franchise in October or November next year, setting out what it wants from the winning bidder.
Construction of the £56Bn HS2 line is scheduled to begin next year, despite opposition from communities in its path. There is also concern amongst a group of MPs, who have warned that the construction timetable is overly ambitious.
Last month, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the government intended to press ahead with the project, which is hoped to reduce overcrowding on the existing network and generate economic growth across the country.
It is planned that HS2 will eventually link London, Birmingham, the East Midlands, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester.
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “We are embarking on a new chapter in our modernisation of the railways and we need world-class expertise to deliver it.
“HS2 will be the backbone of Britain’s railways, creating more seats for passengers on the West Coast and increasing capacity on the rest of the network.
“By combining the franchise we are ensuring we get the right people on board at an early stage to design and manage the running of both services in the transition stage.”
Virgin Trains will be awarded a new short-term contract of approximately 12 months to continue operating West Coast services following the end of the current franchise in 2018.
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