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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 1 April, 2003, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Group shocked as rail bid fails
First Great Eastern
First Great Eastern was "astonished" not to be shortlisted
Transport firm FirstGroup, which operates First Great Eastern services, has failed in its bid to run rail routes in East Anglia.

It means that from 2004 FirstGroup will no longer run the Great Eastern rail routes in Essex and Suffolk.

FirstGroup, which runs bus services in Norfolk, Northamptonshire and Essex, does not feature in the three-name shortlist bidding for the Greater Anglia franchise.

FirstGroup currently operates the Great Eastern franchise, which will form part of the Greater Anglia franchise from April 2004.

The three shortlisted companies are Arriva Trains, GB Railways and National Express.

Peter Northfield, from First Great Eastern, said the firm was shocked at the decision

'Astonished and amazed'

He said the company intended to take legal advice.

"I was just totally astonished and amazed. We have put a lot of work into running our network," he said.

"When we saw the press release on 1 April we wondered whether it was an April Fool's Day joke."

Martin Helm, a spokesman for FirstGroup, told BBC News Online that he thought Great Eastern staff would be "absolutely staggered" by the news.

"Everybody has worked so hard to gear up for the bid," he said.

The decision not to include FirstGroup was made by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) which has brought in tough new rules.

Richard Bowker, SRA chairman, said: "The qualification threshold was set at a very demanding level indeed to ensure the best possible competition on behalf of passengers and taxpayers."


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