Two of the companies running trains out of Brighton have been shortlisted to operate Thameslink services from September next year.
First Group, which currently operates the franchise as First Capital Connect, hopes to retain the contract.
It faces competition from Govia, the company that owns Southern Railway and runs most services out of Brighton.
Southern’s trains run to London Victoria and along the coast through Hove and Portslade to the west and to Lewes, Eastbourne and Hastings in the east.
Govia is a partnership between the Go Ahead Group, which also owns Brighton and Hove Buses, and the French transport company Keolis. It also operates the Southeastern franchise and the Gatwick Express.
First Group and Govia have been shortlisted along with three other bidders for a franchise that will run for at least seven years.
The other three are
Stagecoach runs buses in East and West Sussex. The Scottish company also runs South West Trains and East Midlands Trains.
Abellio is the international offshoot of Nederlandse Spoorwegen, which runs the railways in Holland, and already has three of Britain’s 19 franchises.
MTR runs the Mass Transit Railway network in Hong Kong and would be a new entrant to the British public transport market.
The Thameslink franchise, which includes trains from Brighton to Bedford via London Bridge, Blackfriars and King’s Cross, is to be merged with the Southern and Southeastern franchises in 2015. Southern’s current franchise ends in 2015.
A spokesman for Southern said: “We are proud of our track record at Southern and are committed to delivering further improvements for passengers during our current franchise which runs until 2015.
“We are eager to continue our work beyond this and we believe we can deliver passenger benefits across the whole Thameslink network.
First Group chief executive Tim O’Toole said that he was delighted to have made the shortlist and added: “We have a strong track record of delivery and investment in our rail operations.
“We look forward to building on our position as the UK’s largest rail operator and submitting competitive proposals which meet the needs of customers and taxpayers.”
The Department for Transport (DfT) said: “The new Thameslink operator will help oversee the completion of the Thameslink project which will enable a near doubling of capacity into and through central London in the peak periods.
“These potential providers will receive the invitation to tender which is anticipated will be issued in October 2012.
“It is anticipated that the successful bidder will be announced in May 2013, with the contract commencing in September 2013.
“The length of the franchise will be a minimum of seven years, with pricing also required for a potential extension of up to two years at the discretion of the Secretary of State.
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.