Transport for London is looking for an operator for the new Crossrail line being built beneath the capital.
It has advertised for an operator to both run services and manage many of the stations using the model of the London Overground suburban network, which is run by a partnership of Germany’s Deutsche Bahn and Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation.
TfL will stipulate service levels, hours of operation and staffing.
The first services will run over existing tracks from Liverpool Street to Sheffield, Essex, in May 2015.
Services from Heathrow will reach Paddington over existing tracks by May 2018.
Journeys from Paddington to Abbey Wood or Shenfield will use the new tracks below central London, starting between December 2018 and May 2019 will the full through service, including services from Maidenhead, due to begin in December 2019.
London mayor Boris Johnson said: “We’re looking to appoint a world class operator to run a world class service that will see Crossrail set the benchmark for railway services in Europe.”