The government has announced a new rail franchise, combing the current Intercity West Coast services with West Coast Partnership – will be responsible for services on both the West Coast Main Line from 2019 and designing and running the initial high speed services from 2026.

Phase one of the controversial scheme is expected to be completed by around 2026. It will cut through Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and reduce journey times between London and Birmingham by 32 minutes.

A second Y-shaped phase, taking the line to north-east and north-west England and beyond, is due to be completed by around 2032/33.

Transport minister Andrew Jones said: “HS2 will be the backbone of Britain’s railways, creating more seats for passengers on the West Coast and increasing capacity on the rest of the network.

“By combining the franchise we are ensuring we get the right people on board at an early stage to design and manage the running of both services in the transition stage.

“The new franchise will attract highly experienced companies, who have the right experience, which ultimately means a better deal for passengers – both now and in the future,” he said.

Chairman of HS2 Ltd Sir David Higgins said the plan for HS2 has always been to operate as a “fully integrated” service with the wider network not a standalone railway.

“Bringing on board a new partner to work with HS2 Ltd now will help ensure we are working towards the same goal,” said Higgins.

The partnership approach means the winning bidder will collaborate with HS2 Ltd to design, launch and operate the initial HS2 services.

The government said the completion of the first phase of HS2 will nearly triple the number of seats at peak times from 11,000 to around 30,000. The majority of intercity trains will run on the high speed network, allowing more commuter services to run on the West Coast line.

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