Abellio UK management buyout cuts ties with Dutch parent

Abellio UK train, which has changed owners Abellio

Dutch owned Abellio UK is about to be renamed Transport UK Group. The company is the subject of a management buyout that has been coming down the tracks for almost a year. Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) handed over to the reins, after receiving all formal approvals.

The new company, Transport UK Group Ltd (TUK), will take over all Abellio UK’s existing services, including four passenger train operating companies.

With rail operations from north of Liverpool to south of London, the management of Transport UK Group have taken on a wide portfolio, serving millions of rail and bus passengers across the UK. The management buyout leaves the new British management to operate East Midlands Railway (primarily between London and Sheffield); Greater Anglia in partnership with Japanese corporation Mitsui (serving from London to Norwich and also operating the dedicated Stansted airport express); the metro service of Merseyrail (in partnership with Serco); and West Midlands Trains (branded as both West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway). The new company also has over 60 bus routes in and around London.

Continue to play a key role

In a highly policy-driven press release, the company, which at least initially will be called “TUK”, says it remains committed to playing a vital, long-term role in the future of UK rail and bus services. It also says it will play a part in the national debate. “The company will provide its voice and extensive knowledge to help shape UK rail industry reform”, says their statement.

New class 777 Merseyrail train
Transport UK Group will inherit the new fleet on its Liverpool metro operation. A box fresh Class 777 train runs on Merseyrail network in Liverpool, image: Serco

The deal was led by managing director Dominic Booth, who has been in the senior echelons of the public transport sector since late in the twentieth century. He struck a patriotic note in his first day behind the desk. “We are thrilled to return key public transport services back into UK ownership. We will continue to play a key role in the country’s transport sector, ensuring the provision of our award-winning services to passengers around the UK and driving innovation to develop a low-emission UK transport network.”

Bad in the north, good in the south

Abellio has been involved in other parts of the UK rail network, not always with the greatest of success. Notably, the company was removed from the ScotRail operation. The devolved government in Edinburgh exercised a break clause in their contract after multiple performance targets were missed.

On the other side of the coin, Abellio has been named operator of the year on six separate occasions. Most recently, their Greater Anglia franchise took the plaudits in 2020 and 2021. The company has also returned some of the highest reliability performers across the whole UK rail network. The Merseyrail metro operation around Liverpool has been the UK’s most punctual railway since 2018. Merseyrail is also in the process of taking on a brand new train fleet.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for RailTech.com and Railfreight.com

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