Mayor of London Boris Johnson says the capital is looking for “a world class operator” to run trains and stations on the new Crossrail service.
When fully operational in 2018, Crossrail will connect 37 stations linking Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.
Transport for London has published a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) inviting bids from prospective operators.
The contract be awarded as a concession, meaning TfL will set service standards including train frequency and staffing levels. The same model is used for the London Overground, consistently one of the UK’s most reliable railways.
The successful bidder will commence operations in May 2015 when TfL becomes responsible for services between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, currently operated Greater Anglia.
Tunnelling and construction work for the £14.8bn project is currently underway.
Howard Smith, Chief Operating Officer for London Rail, said: “We are now starting the procurement process to find a truly first rate operator to run the Crossrail services and provide excellent standards of customer care on behalf of TfL.
“The first services will operate from May 2015 between Liverpool Street and Shenfield with the main Crossrail services connecting Canary Wharf, the City and the West End in late 2018.”
Earlier this month Ministers agreed to change funding arrangements for new Crossrail trains to ensure the project is delivered on time.
Originally taxpayers had been expected to contribute around one-third of the cost of the trains, estimated to be around £350m. However taxpayers will now provide the entire £1bn funding package needed to build the trains in time for delivery and testing in 2017.
Transport for London says the change of finance arrangements will simplify the procurement process, ensuring the project will proceed on schedule.