Eurostar bid to run East Coast trains

Eurostar and French company Keolis will launch a joint bid to run the East Coast franchise, which operates trains through Lincolnshire.

The East Coast Main Line has been run by the government since 2009 after National Express dropped the franchise mid-term.

As part of the deal, Eurostar would take a minority share in Keolis, which is majority-owned by French rail company SNCF.

Keolis already operates four UK franchises in Southern, Southeastern, London Midland and the TransPennine Express.

The tendering process for the East Coast Main Line (ECML) began in March, and Virgin is said to consider bidding for the franchise as well.

However, unions and Labour have argued that the East Coast Main Line has “flourished” since it has been run by the Department for Transport, and the privatisation would not improve services necessarily.

The successful bidder for East Coast should be announced in October 2014, with the new franchise starting in February 2015.

The East Coast Main Line runs from London to Aberdeen via Peterborough, Leeds, York, Newcastle, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.

Eurostar Chief Executive Nicolas Petrovic said: “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.”

Keolis UK’s Chief Executive Alistair Gordon added: “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.”

A total of 10 of the 16 rail franchises in the country are due for renewal before the general election in 2015.