East West Railway Company invites bids for short-term rolling stock contract as it goes shopping for trains

East West Railway Company opts for a short-term solution of leasing trains for the section of East West Rail between Oxford, Milton Keynes, Aylesbury and Bedford as it publishes an official Invitation to Tender in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) today, Monday 9 March. 

Months of extensive market analysis and engagement with the industry led East West Railway Company to ask rolling stock companies and manufacturers to provide self-powered units under an interim, four-year contract with maintenance package. The company's interim approach:  

  • Prioritises getting passenger services up and running as quickly as possible on this section of East West Rail 

  • Gives East West Railway Company valuable time to explore a wider range of green energy technologies to power their trains, helping East West Rail become a net zero carbon railway when services run all the way through from Oxford to Cambridge by the end of the decade 

  • Allows for a smoother transition to electrification across the whole East West Rail line, from Oxford to Cambridge, should this be chosen as a longer-term solution.  

Simon Blanchflower CBE, Chief Executive at East West Railway Company said:  

“Local communities have told us they would like us to get on and give them the connectivity they so desperately need, and they also want us to deliver a railway that cares for the environment.   

“This is why it was important for us to opt for an interim solution that will help us to accelerate delivery of this section of East West Rail while allowing us to explore in detail a wider range of green sustainable technologies.   

“Our aim is to be a net zero carbon railway by the time passenger services run all the way along the East West Rail line from Oxford to Cambridge, and a short-term approach at this stage in the project is the best way to help achieve this aim.”   

East West Railway Company began a rolling stock market engagement exercise in 2018, hosting workshops and meetings with organisations from across the market. This allowed the company to understand what is available to meet the entry into service requirements, shaped the strategy, and helped define specifications for the procurement.  

The conclusion of the market exercise was announced through a Prior Information Notice (PIN), which was lodged on Friday 5 July 2019 and published in the OJEU. The PIN requested that interested parties refrain from further interaction with East West Railway Company until the formal process began.

East West Railway Company is seeking bids for leasing a fleet of 12 or 14 x 3 car self-powered units with modifications including European Train Control System (“ETCS”) Level 2 and Driver Controlled Operation (“DCO”) capability, supported by a full maintenance package (under a ‘wet’ lease). The lease duration is four years, with an option to extend for two years.  


Notes to editors  

Rolling stock is being procured for the section of East West Rail that will connect Oxford, Milton Keynes, Aylesbury and Bedford - bringing faster journey times and lower transport costs while easing pressure on local roads.  

Work on this section has been split into two phases.   

  • Phase 1 (Oxford to Bicester) was completed in 2016, and combined upgrading the track with major improvements to local stations. Chiltern Railways began running services from Oxford through to London via Bicester in 2017.
  • Phase 2 (Bicester to Bedford) is underway, with enabling works being delivered by the East West Rail Alliance, which was formed in 2015 by Network Rail. 

This approach allows services to be phased in over several years. 

About East West Rail 

East West Rail is a proposed new rail link under development which would connect communities between Oxford, Cambridge, Bedford and Milton Keynes, creating new opportunities for people right across the area by: 

  • Making it cheaper and quicker to get around the area – connecting people to their jobs, homes and families, as well as businesses to their employees, suppliers and customers. 

  • Supporting new housing to make it more affordable and help people’s money go further - so people could afford to live and work in the area, and businesses can afford to create more jobs and increase productivity.  

 As well as improving quality of life for people locally, it would help businesses to become more competitive and productive so they can take advantage of the world-class opportunities the area offers by:

  • Making places more appealing for people wanting to start and grow businesses – attracting and retaining the best talent in the region, while encouraging new investment to support the economy. 

  • Spreading prosperity across the UK - creating growth for towns and cities outside of London. The National Infrastructure Commission estimated that creating these transport links and supporting the area between Oxford and Cambridge was worth nearly £80bn extra each year for the British economy. https://www.nic.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Economic-analysis-Cambridge-Econometrics-SQW-report-for-NIC.pdf 

About East West Railway Company 

East West Railway Company was set up by the Secretary of State for Transport in 2017 to develop a railway with customers and communities at its core.  

  • Between Oxford, Bedford and Milton Keynes, our role is to oversee the work already underway 

  • Between Bedford and Cambridge, we are taking the project through the development of the railway 

  • We’ll also be integrating the two sides of the project to get the best results for all the communities we serve, from Oxford to Cambridge.   

We have a mission to innovate and challenge the status-quo in the rail and construction industries, leading to a more efficient and cost-effective project delivery, and a great experience for passengers and the communities we serve. Our distinctive outlook and commitment to doing the right thing for our customers and local communities runs through everything we do and every decision we make.