Rail and road

Our rail and road team combines first-class legal skills, unbeatable commitment to our clients, outstanding market knowledge and genuine commercial understanding. Being at the table with the industry means we have unique insights from all perspectives. This benefits our clients, who comprise some of the most significant stakeholders in the industry.

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We offer expert advice on the full operations cycle of the rail and bus industries – we know and understand what the most recent and up to date position is in relation to both of these sectors. Both our partners and associates have valuable knowledge of this area. We can be relied upon to know what is market standard and apply our expertise in the way that will be most beneficial for our clients. The rail industry in particular is in a period of significant reform. The pandemic fundamentally changed its operating model and finances – but change was already underway pre-pandemic and the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail promises significant structural change. Not only that, relationships within the industry will be fundamentally shifting, together with the contracts and incentive mechanisms that support these relationships. We have been with the industry through the turbulent times of the past few years and continue to be at the forefront of industry developments and thought leadership.

One of the core themes of rail reform is industry cost: the need to grow passenger numbers – and increase revenue, as well as ensuring the industry is as cost-efficient as possible. The introduction of the National Rail Contract and long-term Passenger Services Contract models require a fundamental shift in thinking. And all of this at a time when the legal and regulatory framework for the industry is in flux. These are exciting times for rail in the UK. 

In Europe, the market has been open to greater competition since the 1990s and this is expected to continue with the recast of the First Railway Package and the introduction of the Fourth Railway Package.

These are also exciting times for buses: with major UK Cities starting to implement or considering bus franchising schemes, giving local authorities better control over bus services offered to people living in those areas. 

Our team acts for private sector operators and owning groups, public bodies, financiers, lessors, industry bodies, infrastructure owners, manufacturers and maintainers. Our team includes lawyers who have worked in or been seconded to the transport industry, including to General Counsel roles in both of High Speed 1 and High Speed 2, and roles within operators and owning groups.

We can help you with:

  • operating agreements (including franchise agreements and concessions (rail and bus), National Rail Contracts, Passenger Services Contracts, direct awards, emergency amendment agreements)
  • decarbonisation projects – including battery, hydrogen and hybrid solutions for buses and trains (and related infrastructure)
  • mobilisations and demobilisations
  • rolling stock and bus procurement, operation, leasing and maintenance
  • supply chain contracts, including technology and signalling arrangements
  • rail regulation, regulated and unregulated access agreements and options
  • stations, depots (rail and bus) and adjacent property
  • construction contracts and real estate
  • employment, unions and pensions
  • infrastructure procurement, ownership, operation and maintenance
  • dispute resolution in transport
  • procurement (including challenges)
  • competition issues
  • joint ventures
  • intellectual property rights and protection (including cyber security issues)
  • planning and environmental issues
  • data protection and information

Twitter @LegalRail

"The Stephenson Harwood team has many years of experience in their team. Understanding not just the legal aspects of the industry but also have a good engineering and operational understanding."

The Legal 500 UK 2024

Rail - Franchising, concessions and operating agreements

  • Advising Transport UK Group (formerly Abellio) operators and Trenitalia c2c: in response to the impact of Covid-19, advising on the Emergency Measures Agreements and Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements with the DfT to vary the underlying franchise agreement in light of the extraordinary impact of the pandemic and reduction in passenger numbers. Subsequently advising these operators and Arriva in relation to the termination of existing arrangements and migration to (and terms of) the National Rail Contract direct award to ensure ongoing operation of the railway and ongoing advice in relation to the operation of that contract and the business planning process.
  • Advising Transport for London/Rail for London in connection with the management of the Crossrail/Elizabeth line concession, including deeds of amendment.
  • Advising on ongoing aspects of franchise/concession businesses and regulated contracts – including Transport UK Group (formerly Abellio), Arriva and Trenitalia UK subsidiaries. This has included in relation to supply chain arrangements for delivery of commitments, operator workforces (including employment and pensions), data protection, leases with tenants, construction contracts. Advising on a range of commercial relationships such as facilities management, customer interfaces, industry ticketing arrangements, procurement issues, station services, ticketing systems/equipment and other commercial contracts with goods and services providers.
  • Advising a train operating group in relation to its challenge, in the high court, of the DfT's decision to disqualify a bid to run a particular franchise on the UK rail network.

Rolling stock procurement and maintenance

  • Advising Spanish manufacturer CAF in relation to the project documents for the sale of rolling stock for various train operations, including Northern Ireland Railway, Docklands Light Railway, Caledonian Sleeper, West Coast, Nexus Metro, Wales and Borders, LNER, HS2 and for trams purchased by the West Midlands Combined Authority for operation in Birmingham.
  • Advising Trenitalia c2c on the procurement, manufacture, supply and maintenance arrangements for the supply of a new Aventra fleet, together with the construction contracts for associated depot modifications and ongoing "in-life" advice.
  • Advising Lombard North Central, part of the RBS Banking Group, in relation to the manufacture and supply by Vivarail to South Western Railway of five class 484 two-car electric multiple units, which will be manufactured by Vivarail using bodyshells and bogies from former London Underground District Line cars. 
  • Advising a manufacturer of rolling stock in relation to claims for delay and the resolution of differences between the parties associated with the delivery of new trains. This also included through the use of formal dispute resolution procedures.

Rail regulation

  • Advising Transport for London on the design, formation and implementation of the regulatory structure for the Crossrail infrastructure and Elizabeth line services. This has involved advice on the set-up and constitution of the infrastructure company, design and drafting of all regulatory and access documentation, interpretation and compliance with UK and EU law and regulation, extensive industry consultation and Office of Rail and Road interface. We have also given detailed advice on access arrangements with Network Rail and Heathrow Airport and the interface with the HS2 project at Old Oak Common.
  • Advising various train operators on their consultation responses to various aspects of the Office of Rail and Road's periodic review process in connection with its review of Network Rail's access charges, including within the framework of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail.
  • Advising Transport for London in relation to the transfer of certain stations on the West Anglia route (and Crossrail services) into TfL, including a new lease and station access structure.

Rail infrastructure

  • Advising CAF on the real estate, planning, construction and regulation of a new manufacturing facility in Newport, Wales. The Newport facility will be a strategically important facility supporting CAF's ongoing rolling stock manufacturing work.
  • Advising Trenitalia c2c on the redevelopment of stations and adjoining land in connection with wider developments at Purfleet and Stanford-le-Hope.

Buses and road – Franchising, concessions, infrastructure and depots

  • Advising Zenobe Energy in connection with its contracts with bus operators including the provision of charging infrastructure and batteries and the lease of bus chassis and the risks associated with each. This has included advising on the obligations in relation to the installation of charging infrastructure, the provision of electricity supply and the interface between the chassis, the batteries, and the charging infrastructure as each is a stand-alone project. We have also advised on the supply contracts from manufacturers and the warranties obtained from manufacturers.
  • Advising CAF in relation to its onboard energy/battery provision to the local authority pursuant to a services arrangements, which included a consideration of warranties as well as future proofing the supply of energy/batteries.
  • Advising a major transport company on its strategy and bids to operate bus franchises. Also advising on the procurement of new electric buses and related depot infrastructure required for charging.

Latest news & insights

21 Feb 2024

From Insights

Transportation and trade newsletter - Transportation finance

Welcome to the second edition of Stephenson Harwood’s transportation and trade update – our specialist newsletter for clients engaged in the aviation, marine, rail and..


16 Jan 2024

From Insights

What is the future for rail operating contracts?

Top 10 takeaways from our top table dinner


04 Dec 2023

From Insights

Keeping the railway moving: New legislation signals minimum services for passengers during strike action

By its very nature, strike action by railway staff is designed to be disruptive to passengers.


14 Nov 2023

From News

Stephenson Harwood rail team advises key client CAF on its €500 million contracts for a new train fleet

The Stephenson Harwood rail team has advised long-standing and key client Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles S.A and CAF Rail UK Limited (together, CAF) on its..


31 Oct 2023

From News

Stephenson Harwood advises on acquisition of Arriva plc

Law firm Stephenson Harwood LLP has advised longstanding client Arriva on its acquisition from Deutsche Bahn by I Squared Capital.


28 Sep 2023

From Insights

Waterloo sunrise (with patchy cloud): the railway and the Retained EU Law (Revocation & Reform) Act 2023

Earlier this year in our insight "Waterloo sunset" – which you can find here – we spoke about government proposals to scrap all "retained European law" which forms par..


01 Aug 2023

From Insights

Transportation and trade newsletter

Welcome to the first edition of Stephenson Harwood’s transportation and trade update – our specialist newsletter for clients engaged in the aviation, marine, rail and ..


17 Jul 2023

From Insights

Putting the “AI” in rail: How will AI impact the rail industry and its employers?

The transformative power of artificial intelligence (“AI”) has been hitting the headlines recently.


07 Jul 2023

From Insights

Delivering strategic projects in the rail industry: Digital signalling – a case study in how the industry should work?

How do we deliver strategic projects in the rail industry and can digital signalling provide a case study in how the industry should work? That was the question posed ..


20 Jun 2023

From Insights

Signalling the way forward: What the Hitachi and Thales provisional merger decision could mean to the rail industry in the UK

In August 2021, Hitachi Rail, Ltd ("Hitachi") announced it had agreed to acquire Thales SA's Ground Transportation Systems Business ("Thales" and together with Hitachi..


16 Mar 2023
09 Mar 2023

From Insights

Start your engines: bus infrastructure

The Bus Services Act 2017 introduced two new bus service operating models: franchising and enhanced partnerships. You can find out more about the differences between ..


01 Mar 2023

From Insights

Why 'BeReal' can be a big deal: Risks of social media for the bus industry

You would be forgiven for asking "What is 'BeReal' and what has it got to do with buses?".


23 Feb 2023

From Insights

What will you find on an electric bus? A conductor…

The increased use of zero-emission vehicles, both for personal use and for public transport, is a key focus of the UK's transport decarbonisation plan and is intended ..


22 Feb 2023

From Insights

On c-ORR-ecting regulatory mistakes

In a piece first published by Rail Professional, partners Darren Fodey and Paul Thwaite look at what should be considered when challenging a regulatory decision.


16 Feb 2023

From Insights

All aboard for local bus services: Bus franchising vs enhanced partnerships

In this article, the Stephenson Harwood rail and bus team explores the key characteristics of both franchising and EPs, as well as some of the potential benefits – and..


© Stephenson Harwood LLP 2016. Any reference to Stephenson Harwood in this document means Stephenson Harwood LLP and/or its affiliated undertakings. Any reference to a partner is used to refer to a member of Stephenson Harwood LLP.