Strategic Rail Authority plumps for Eversheds

The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) appointed Eversheds ahead of other panel firms, including Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Linklaters, to advise on the new rail franchise for Wales and Borders.

Eversheds was reappointed to the panel (see news story) towards the end of the bid process. This is the first time that the SRA has transferred the assets (trains, staff, stations etc) from the incumbent to a new operator by the statutory transfer scheme.

The new 15-year franchise to operate trains in the Wales and Borders area was awarded to Arriva Trains, advised by Field Fisher Waterhouse. Heartened by Arriva’s first tender win, the Field Fisher rail and transport team, led by partner Nicholas Thompsell, is also advising Arriva on its bid for the Greater Anglia franchise.

The relationship goes back to the mid-1990s, when Arriva bought Field Fisher client Northern Spirit. Thompsell’s team has advised Arriva on its franchise work for the last two years, with partner Simon Chamberlain advising on train leasing.

Arriva’s in-house team, led by Chris Applegarth, worked closely with Field Fisher. Applegarth also uses Herbert Smith, Dickinson Dees and Pinsents. Herbert Smith recently advised Arriva on the transfer of its Merseyside business to Serco/Ned, which resulted in a first instruction from Serco/Ned.

The bid and negotiations with the SRA took around 18 months, but once the franchise was signed it took just seven weeks to go live.

Osborne Clarke associate Craig Jones advised the outgoing franchise operator Cardiff Railway Company, which is owned by National Express.