Transport officials dismiss talk of frontrunner emerging in Greater Anglia rail franchise race

Transport officials set to decide who should take over the running of the Greater Anglia rail franchise have insisted that the process was still on track to be a three-horse race amid rumours of a clear favourite emerging.

Speculation in a national newspaper suggested that Dutch firm Abellio was the frontrunner to take over the running of the initial short-termfranchise from National Express East Anglia, which is due to start in February 2012.

The other two companies are Stagecoach Anglia Trains Limited, part of the Stagecoach Group, and the Go-Ahead Group.

Strict rules governing the bidding process means that the three firms are forbidden to talk explicitly about the bids and all three were singing from the same hymn sheet yesterday in insisting that the process was still on track.

An Abellio spokesman said: 'The Department for Transport is still evaluating the bids and we are awaiting the decision.'

A spokesman for Go-Ahead said: 'Like the other short-listed companies we await the decision of the department'.

A spokesman for Stagecoach said the rules prevented any bidder from commenting.

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A Department for Transport spokesman said: 'We are still evaluating each of the three bids to operate the Greater Anglia franchise for the next 29 months. The winner will be announced in due course. As the procurement process is currently ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further.'