The three train operators competing for the next East Midlands rail franchise have been named by the Department for Transport (DfT).
The shortlisted firms are Arriva Rail East Midlands Limited, which is part of Arriva UK Trains Limited; First Trenitalia East Midlands Rail Limited, a joint venture company owned by First Rail Holdings Limited and Trenitalia UK Limited; and Stagecoach East Midlands Trains Limited, part of Stagecoach Transport Holdings Limited.
The current franchise is run by Stagecoach Group, which has operated the network under the East Midlands Trains brand since 2007, was due to end on March 4, 2018, but was extended by a year due to planned network upgrade work.
The government aims to improve the quality and frequency of journeys on the network as well as develop new services and connections.
The service currently links Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Sheffield with London St Pancras and local lines serve towns such as Mansfield, Kirby, Sutton and Hucknall. The next train operator will take over in 2019.
Rail Minister Paul Maynard said: "A flourishing rail network brings real growth and prosperity to the region it serves. That is why we are making the biggest investment in the national rail network in more than 100 years to deliver the safer, faster and more comfortable journeys that passengers want.
"At the same time, Network Rail is working on improvements which by 2019 will enable the next East Midlands franchise to deliver more carriages and faster journeys over the whole route, including almost twice as many seats into London St Pancras in the peak hours.
"I am delighted that all these first-class companies have demonstrated their confidence in our vision for the future of the rail industry in Great Britain by bidding for this key franchise."