Five rail companies have been short-listed by the Scottish government in the contest to run the Scotrail franchise from spring 2015.
The firms include incumbent operator First Group, which has been running the franchise since 2004, as well as Arriva, National Express, MTR from Hong Kong, and Dutch firm Abellio.
Scotrail operates 95 per cent of train services in Scotland - the winner of the bidding process is due to be announced in the autumn of 2014 and will start running the 10-year franchise from April 2015.
Vernon Barker, First Group’s managing director of UK Rail, said: “As a Scottish company, we are proud to run Scotland’s railway and proud of our success in growing the business.
“First Scotrail now carries 83 million passengers a year, 30 per cent more than in 2004, and has introduced 300 more services per day.”
Meanwhile the UK’s Department for Transport is to launch a new study into how to increase the benefits that Scotland will get from the HS2 high-speed rail project.
Scotland is already set to be boosted by the first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham from 2026 as the new line will be linked to existing West Coast Main Line services north of the border.
But the DFT wants to look at how to maximise the impact of HS2 for Scotland, such as examining ways to cut journey times to below three hours from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Transport minister Baroness Kramer said: “Scotland will already benefit from day one with reduced journey times to and from London and once the full network is open these times will be reduced by up to an hour.
“However, we want to see if more can be done and so we are commissioning this study from HS2 Ltd with the support of the Scottish government to consider how these benefits could be extended further.”