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17 January 2017, 11:37
Abellio is to sell 40% of its Greater Anglia rail franchise to Japanese company Mitsui, saying the joint venture will lead to "significant improvements'' for passengers.
The biggest rail union said the move showed that Britain's rail network is up "constantly up for grabs'', making a "mockery'' of the Government's franchising process.
Abellio said the announcement fulfils its objective of finding a suitable partner to run Greater Anglia in a 60:40 joint venture.
A statement said: "Abellio and Mitsui have a proven track record of working together, having first entered into a joint venture to bid for the West Midlands rail franchise in 2016, along with East Japan Railway Company.
"Following this process, Abellio felt that Mitsui would be the best partner to help it deliver its ambitious programme to transform the Greater Anglia franchise.''
Abellio won the Greater Anglia franchise again last August, having first operated it from February 2012.
Dominic Booth, managing director of Abellio, said: "We are delighted to have reached agreement with Mitsui, fulfilling our long-standing objective of running the franchise as a 60:40 joint venture.
"With the introduction of Mitsui's knowledge and experience, we look forward to delivering significant improvements for Greater Anglia's customers, including through the introduction of a brand new fleet.''
Mick Cash, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: "Following on from the National Express sale of the c2c franchise to Trenitalia, this latest sell-off by Abellio of a chunk of the Greater Anglia franchise to Mitsui shows that the Britain's rail network is up constantly for grabs, making a mockery of the very expensive Department for Transport franchising process.
"The checks and balances for both passengers and the taxpayer, which the DfT claims are enshrined in its multimillion-pound franchising programme, are clearly lacking when the winning bidder can simply walk away, share out its responsibilities and choose its replacement whenever it sees fit.''