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Joint venture
Industry Train operating company
Founded 2002
Area served
Northern England
Owner Serco (50%)
Abellio (50%)
Subsidiaries Merseyrail
Northern Rail

Serco-Abellio (formerly Serco-NedRailways) is a joint venture between Serco and Abellio, each owning 50%. The joint venture formed and owns two train operating companies in northern England. The first operation, Merseyrail, began in 2003 and expires in 2028. The second, Northern Rail, runs from 2004 to 2016.

The venture has bid for other rail franchises in Great Britain, and the partners also bid against each other for the 2016 Northern Rail franchise.

Serco is a UK public listed company providing outsourced public sector services internationally, including the operation of public transport systems. Abellio is a subsidiary of the Dutch state railway company, Nederlandse Spoorwegen.



In April 2003 Serco/NedRailways was awarded the Merseyrail franchise for 25 years from July 2003.[1][2]

Northern Rail[edit]

In July 2004 Serco/NedRailways was awarded the Northern Rail franchise for six years and nine months from December 2004 with a two-year extension subject to performance targets being achieved.[3][4][5]

In May 2010 the Department for Transport confirmed that Northern Rail had met the performance targets and the franchise was extended for two years until September 2013.[6][7][8] In May 2012 the Department for Transport granted Northern Rail a six-month extension until March 2014.[9][10][11] In March 2014 the Secretary of State for Transport announced a direct award until 4 February 2016.[12] This is actually a new, short term franchise, and not an extension of the previous one.



The joint venture was also shortlisted for a number of other rail franchises:

  • ScotRail in 2003, but withdrew to concentrate on the Northern Rail franchise[14]

Partners operating independently[edit]

In 2014, it was confirmed that each partner bid independently for the 2016 Northern Rail franchise. Only Abellio made the shortlist of three bidders. The joint venture will continue to operate the Merseyrail franchise until its 2028 conclusion.[18][19]

Abellio was shortlisted for the London Overground, South Central, Greater Anglia, InterCity West Coast, Essex Thameside and Thameslink Southern & Great Northern franchises in its own right.

In April 2015, Serco, in its own right, will commence operating the Caledonian Sleeper franchise, while Abellio ScotRail will take over the ScotRail franchise.[20][21]


  1. ^ Serco joint venture selected as preferred bidder for £3.6 billion Merseyrail Electric network concession Serco 23 April 2003
  2. ^ Merseyrail franchise goes Dutch The Telegraph 24 April 2003
  3. ^ "Serco-NedRailways Announced as Preferred Bidder for new Northern Rail Franchise" (PDF) (Press release). Strategic Rail Authority. 1 July 2004. Retrieved 23 June 2009. 
  4. ^ Rail Magazine (492), 21 July 2004: 14  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Juliette Jowit (2004-10-17). "Dutch railway to share new Northern franchise". The Observer. 
  6. ^ "Northern Secures Two Year Franchise Extension" (Press release). Northern Rail. 13 May 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  7. ^ Serco Northern Rail venture awarded £530m two year franchise extension Serco 13 May 2010
  8. ^ Northern Secures Two Year Franchise Extension Northern Rail 13 May 2010
  9. ^ "Northern Rail granted franchise continuation". 2012-05-10. Retrieved 2012-05-10. 
  10. ^ Franchise Continuation for Northern Rail Northern Rail 9 May 2012
  11. ^ Contract News Update 14 Serco 14 May 2012
  12. ^ "Railway plan puts new focus on passengers" Secretary of State for Transport statement 26 March 2013
  13. ^ Completed acquisition by Arriva plc of the Wales and Borders Rail franchise Office of Fair Trading 16 March 2004
  14. ^ ScotRail franchise bidders reveal plans for network's future Herald Scotland 22 March 2003
  15. ^ AFX News Limited / Thomson Financial (2007-06-21). "UK govt awards West Midlands rail franchise to Go-Ahead Group UPDATE". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2011-05-23. 
  16. ^ "Foreign bids for Metro contract". BBC News. 2009-02-02. Retrieved 2009-02-03. 
  17. ^ NedRailways shortlisted for Tyne & Wear Metro franchise Abellio 6 June 2009
  18. ^ Serco to divorce from Northern Rail partner Daily Telegraph 18 June 2014
  19. ^ "North of England rail franchise bidders announced". BBC News Online. 19 August 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2015. The companies competing for the Northern franchise are Arriva, Govia and Abellio, which has held the contract in a joint venture with Serco since 2004. 
  20. ^ Serco wins franchise for Caledonian sleeper train service BBC News 28 May 2014
  21. ^ Dutch firms wins ScotRail franchise from FirstGroup BBC News 8 October 2014

External links[edit]