A rail company will have to beat the challenge of two giant rival transport companies if it wants to carry on operating services on key commuter routes in East Anglia.
Abellio Greater Anglia currently runs the East Anglia franchise, which is being re-let in October 2016.
The Government announced that Abellio, in a partnership with transport company Stagecoach, had made it on to a shortlist of bidders for the new franchise.
But Abellio now faces stiff competition, as the other two shortlisted companies are FirstGroup and National Express - firms with much franchise-operating experience.
Last month it was revealed that Abellio Greater Anglia had more negative tweets from passengers in 2014 than any of the other commuter train operators.
Abellio carries more than 350,000 passengers a day. The East Anglia franchise includes services to Stansted Airport and to Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
Announcing the shortlist, Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “We have ambitious plans for East Anglia’s rail network, and the successful bidder will be central to making these plans a reality.
“We want to find a partner who will help us meet the increasing demand for transport in the region by providing faster, more reliable journeys and better connections across the region and beyond.
“We are investing record amounts in building a world-class railway aspart of our long-term economic plan, and I am determined that passengers in East Anglia will benefit.”
Stagecoach Group chief executive Martin Griffiths said: “We are one of the country’s leading rail companies and we know the railway is central to the economy in East Anglia.
“We believe our strong track record, combined with the insight of Abellio, can produce a powerful joint bid to deliver a better experience for customers, and support jobs and businesses in the region.”