Eurostar Teams With SNCF’S Keolis in U.K. East Coast Rail Bid

Eurostar Group Ltd. will jointly bid with the Keolis unit of French state train company Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais for the right to operate the U.K.’s East Coast link between London and Edinburgh.

Keolis will be lead partner for the joint venture trying to win the rail concession due to be awarded in October 2014, the companies said in a joint statement. The new franchise would take effect in February 2015, and the venture would operate under a new brand, they said.

The U.K. government is reviving bidding for the East Coast route after a previous contract, awarded to FirstGroup Plc, was voided because a review found problems with the assessment of offers, following complaints from Virgin Trains.

“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,” Eurostar Chief Executive Officer Nicolas Petrovic said in the statement.

Keolis already operates three British rail franchises in partnership with Go-Ahead Group Plc. It also works with FirstGroup on the TransPennine Express line, and is bidding to manage London’s Docklands Light Railway and Crossrail services.

“What’s exciting about the East Coast Mainline 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 Mainline,” said Alistair Gordon, who heads Keolis’s U.K. operations.

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