Chinese rail firms 'leading race to run HS2' amid British companies' crises
Two Chinese railway firms are reportedly leading the race to operate HS2 trains amid a crisis among British companies who are unwilling to take on the financial gamble.
Guangshen Railway Co, which is connected to the Chinese state rail company, and MTR, which runs Hong Kong’s rail network, are said to be ahead in a shortlist of three, which includes British entries from Virgin and First Group.
Final bids are due early next month for the West Coast Partnership, a deadline that comes after Virgin Trains was forced to hand back control of the East Coast mainline, while First has reported massive losses and seen its chief executive resign.
The contract includes the running of the West Coast main line in and out of London Euston to the late 2020s, while taking over the HS2 brief between the capital and Birmingham from 2026.
A senior rail source told The Times that the two firms’ woes "could let in the Chinese as they have deep, state-backed pockets and would have a blank cheque".
The move is likely to spark fresh fears over Beijing’s influence in UK infrastructure projects, two years after Theresa May refused to support the Hinkley Point nuclear plant two years ago following security concerns around China’s role.
Meanwhile the National Cyber Security Centre warned telecoms providers in April that equipment from Chinese state-owned company ZTE could pose a national security risk.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is due to make a final decision on HS2 next May.
All three bidders declined to comment, as did the Department for Transport.