- Stagecoach Group said it had been disqualified by the UK government from three franchise competitions because it had submitting non-compliant bids mostly related to pensions risk.

The company had been shortlisted for the East Midlands competition, where it was bidding independently.

It had also been shortlisted for the South Eastern competition, where it was bidding with intended partner Alstom and the West Coast Partnership in a joint bid with Virgin Group and SNCF.

Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths said the company was 'extremely concerned' with the transport department's decision and its timing.

'The department has had full knowledge of these bids for a lengthy period and we are seeking an urgent meeting to discuss our significant concerns,' he said.

'We have drawn on more than two decades of rail experience and worked in partnership with local stakeholders to develop high quality proposals to improve each of these rail networks.'

'We bid consistent with industry guidance issued by the Rail Delivery Group and shared with the department.'

'Without ongoing government support for the long-term funding of railway pensions, the Pensions Regulator has indicated that an additional £5bn to £6bn would be needed to plug the gap in train company pensions.'

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