Eurostar bids to run East Coast rail franchise
Channel tunnel operator has teamed up with French company Keolis to bid for government-run route
EUROSTAR has said that it will bid to run the East Coast railway line between London and Scotland.
The company, which runs passenger trains through the Channel Tunnel, has joined forces with Keolis, a French rail company which already runs four UK rail franchises. Both Eurostar and Keolis are part-owned by SNCF, the French state rail operator.
The East Coast line is currently run by Direct Operated Railways [DOR], an "arms-length company" owned by the British government, the Guardian explained. The state stepped in after National Express handed back the franchise in 2009 mid-way through its term.
At the Labour Party conference last week Maria Eagle, shadow transport secretary, promised to keep the East Coast Mainline in public hands. She described the idea of choosing a foreign state-backed firm instead of the British government as "nonsense".
Yet the Department for Transport seems unfazed by the prospect of international bids, arguing that it will promote genuine competition in the industry. The Guardian says bids are expected from the Far East as well as from France and other European nations.
Keolis already operates four UK train franchises — Southern, Southeastern, London Midland and TransPennine Express — and its joint bid with Eurostar is expected to be strong.
Alistair Gordon, chief executive of Keolis UK, said his company's bid would "transform a hugely important national route... 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 successful bid will be announced in October 2014 and the new franchise will come into operation in February 2015. ·