THE winner of the next franchise to run the West Coast Main Line will also be given the change to operate the first 125mph trains on the HS2 line, it has been claimed.

The Times reported that the Department for Transport does not want the two lines competing with one another when the high-speed route first opens in 2026.

Instead, the successful bidder for the new West Coast London-Scotland franchise will be also invited to run services between London and Birmingham after the first branch of the HS2 route is complete.

The next WCML franchise, currently operated by Virgin Trains, is expected to go out to tender in November this year with the winning bidder taking the reins in 2018 on a ten-year contract.

It means that its final two years in charge will overlap with the launch of HS2, assuming the current timetable for the work remains on track.

A source told the Times: "It is more likely that the the West Coast line and HS2 will be combined into a West Coast corridor partnership. What is wanted is cooperation not competition. What is not wanted is tension or friction between the two."

The two-year overlap period will be used to gauge data on demand for HS2 before it is put out to tender as a separate franchise.

No decision has reportedly been made on whether trains running on the WCML and HS2 lines will initially carry the same livery.

Virgin Trains, which also runs the East Coast Main Line in a consortium with Perth-based Stagecoach, is expected to bid again for the WCML, with former ScotRail operator FirstGroup a likely challenger.

FirstGroup was previously selected to take over the lucrative WCML franchise from Virgin in August 2012 but the deal was scrapped weeks later when "significant technical flaws" were identified in the DfT scoring system.

The franchise was subsequently returned to Virgin to run on a short-term basis.

A spokesman for the DfT said: "We are carefully considering all options for how HS2 and the intercity West Coast line will be managed to ensure passengers have choice wherever possible and the public get the greatest benefits."