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Eurostar bids to run East Coast main line
9:40am Tuesday 1st October 2013 in News
CHANNEL Tunnel rail operator Eurostar has announced plans to take over the franchise of the York-based East Coast service.
As part of a joint bid the high-speed international rail operator is working with French firm Keolis, with hopes of winning the contract for the public sector-run line.
The successful bidder is expected be revealed in October next year, with the franchise due to start in February.
Keolis, which jointly operates four rail franchises in the UK, including TransPennine Express and London Midland, will be the lead partner in the bidding consortium.
Eurostar will hold the minority share, with the franchise set to operate under a new brand should the bid be successful.
Bosses said it was too early to say how the York headquarters of East Coast would be affected if the takeover went ahead.
David Lowrie, chief financial officer of Keolis UK, said: “There are no plans to change anything like that at all at the moment, but it is far to early to say. All we are announcing is we are ready to put in a bid with Eurostar.”
Through its joint ventures Keolis currently handles 414 million UK rail passenger journeys every year, equivalent to one in three train journeys made in Great Britain, and employs more than 11,000 people.
Alistair Gordon, chief executive of Keolis UK, said: “I believe that our ability to draw upon an international track record of delivering complex long-distance services, coupled with Eurostar’s reputation for customer excellence, is a unique proposition.
“What’s exciting about the East Coast Main Line is that there is an opportunity to transform a hugely important national route, which is yet to see the same levels of investment as the West Coast Main Line.”
Nicolas Petrovic, chief executive of Eurostar, said: “By joining forces with Keolis we bring a unique blend of expertise and innovation with a fresh perspective.
“The East Coast franchise is a vital economic artery and a key route for both business and leisure passengers which represents an exciting opportunity for future growth and investment.”
The East Coast line has been run by the public sector since National Express East Coast pulled out of the franchise in 2009 after being faced with Government premiums of £766 million over three years.
Mr Lowrie said: “In each of these contracts it’s down to the business plan which is agreed with Government. Previously firms have been unfortunate in that negotiation, but we have a long track record of running successful and profitable franchises in the UK, and we would hope to extend that to the East Coast Main Line.”
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