FIRSTGROUP has been shortlisted to run the TransPennine Express rail service for up to nine more years, writes Marion Dakers.

The Aberdeen-based firm has run passenger trains on the route with its French partner Keolis since 2004.

Keolis and its new bidding partner Go-Ahead are also on the shortlist, along with Stagecoach Group, which jointly runs the West Coast Main Line.

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The TransPennine Express runs from Manchester to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle.

The finalists will now make full bids for the route, before the Government makes a decision on the new operator and length of the contract by October 2015.

"We look forward to reviewing the contract details and submitting a compelling and value for money bid which meets the needs of taxpayers as well as customers and businesses along the route," said FirstGroup's UK rail director Vernon Barker.