The rail sector has experienced an unprecedented and continuing period of growth in services and demand. It continues to face new challenges and opportunities: a major investment programme, record levels of use and safety achievement, devolution and technological innovation but also capacity and financing constraints and a push for increased efficiency.

The rail regulatory and rail commercial landscape is complex and nuanced. Our specialist rail lawyers have an unparalleled understanding of the history and evolution of the sector. We have played a leading role in the industry for over 20 years and have assembled the largest team of specialist rail lawyers in the UK. Our rail law team has been – and continues to be – involved in the most important cases affecting the industry.

Through our collaborative approach, our rail lawyers draw on expertise from across the firm to build the right team of experts for each client. Our rail law team includes lawyers qualified in all three UK jurisdictions and we also have an international presence, advising on transnational opportunities and cross-border alliances.

Our rail team is ranked as a national leader in Tier 1 by Chambers and Legal 500.

Areas of focus

Our rail expertise includes the following:

  • Rail infrastructure projects.
  • Rail franchising – we advise bidders and authorities on all aspects of the franchising process.
  • Rail operations – including advice on day-to-day activities, major strategic projects and complex contractual arrangements on passenger and freight operations.
  • Rail policy and regulation – including advice on compliance issues, engaging with industry bodies (eg the ORR) and licensing matters.
  • Rail disputes – including litigation, arbitration, adjudications and ADR.
  • Rail strategy and structural change.
  • Rail safety and incident response – we provide an immediate and comprehensive response to rail safety incidents.
  • Rail procurement – including specialist advice on rolling stock procurement.
  • Rail stations, depots and real estate – we deliver specialist advice on these unique types of real estate transactions.

Acting for First TransPennine Express on its successful franchise bid and four linked rolling stock procurements. These procurements cover 12 InterCity electric trains, 13 sets of five car InterCity coaches, Class 68 locomotive hire arrangements and maintenance arrangements across Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. These combine with the earlier order for 19 Hitachi bi-mode trains to create a total rail investment of over £500 million – which will deliver over 13 million extra seats a year to boost the Northern Powerhouse.

Advising bidders or authorities on almost all UK passenger heavy rail franchise and concessions let since 1995 including recently acting for the successful bidder on the TransPennine franchise on bid, rolling stock procurement and mobilisation.

Acting for FirstGroup/East Coast Trains Limited on its successful application to ORR to run an innovative open access services on the East Coast Mainline from London to Edinburgh.

Advising Eurostar on the purchase of its new generation e320 rail fleet including the successful defence of a significant three year procurement challenge to that purchase by an unsuccessful bidder.

Acting on every major UK rail accident since privatisation including Southall, Ladbroke Grove (Paddington), Hatfield, Potters Bar, Great Heck (Selby), Ufton Nervet and Grayrigg.

Acting for London Underground on the Metropolitan Line extension.

Drafting the rail industry Access Disputes Resolution Rules on behalf of a cross industry group and successfully representing freight and passenger operators in many industry access disputes.

Advising on rail projects and bids in a number of EU and non-EU jurisdictions including Spain, Germany, Portugal and Brazil.

Representing a major party in the West Coast mainline judicial review.

Representing all UK freight operators on the contractual arrangements for the fitting of the new European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS).

Advising on investigations by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and investigations and prosecutions by the Office of Rail and Road.

Advising Abellio Great Anglia on the devolution of passenger services and the handover of 23 railway stations and termination of rolling stock leases for TfL (and consequential extension of the London Overground concession to operate the same); and the devolution of passenger services and the handover of 11 railway stations to Crossrail.

Advising on a number of rail depots, including acting for Rail for London on the acquisition of the Willesden C Sidings (WeFOC) depot from DB Schenker and preparing the suite of documentation to lease the brand new depot to London Overground concessionaire and ancillary access arrangements over retained DBS sidings; and advising GWR on the petition against the HS2 Bill and the four-staged vacation by GWR of Old Oak Common and GWR’s replacement facilities.

Advising on a number of rolling stock arrangements, including: advising WR on all aspects of a technical support and spares supply agreement with Bombardier in connection with the Class 387 fleet; advising Eversholt Rail Group on the acquisition by lease of a fleet of AT300 bi-mode trains from Hitachi Rail Europe for use by GWR; and advising Merseyrail on a lease extension of their class 507/508s.

Advising Abellio Greater Anglia on the leasing of its railway stations in 2012 being the first franchisee to operate stations on a 99 year FRI lease basis, together with bespoke NR handover agreements for enlarged stations.

Acting for a number of train operating companies in renewing multi-location station and depot leases, including the renewal of the Merseyrail stations and depots in 2016.

Meet the team
Brioney Thomas

Brioney Thomas Partner

  • Head of Transport
  • Asset Finance and Asset Backed Lending
  • Commercial
Simon Coppen

Simon Coppen Consultant

  • Rail
  • Transport
  • Projects
Philip Beer

Philip Beer Partner

  • Real Estate
  • Transport
  • Energy and Utilities
Chris Jackson

Chris Jackson Partner

  • Infrastructure
  • Procurement and State Aid
  • Transport
Ann Metherall

Ann Metherall Partner

  • Head of Dispute Resolution
  • Head of Health and Safety
  • Transport
Ian Tucker

Ian Tucker Partner

  • Dispute Resolution
  • Procurement Disputes
  • Procurement and Subsidy Control
Brian Wong

Brian Wong Partner

  • Rail
  • Highways and Road Transport
  • Judicial Review and Public Law

What others say...

Their industry knowledge, combined with contractual understanding, has been exceptional. Their ability to translate complex legal language has delivered significant benefits.

Chambers UK 2024

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