A joint venture led by integrated transport operator Keolis has been shortlisted to bid for the East Coast Mainline franchise, as announced (today) by the Department for Transport.

Keolis, which has joined with international rail operator, Eurostar, will draw on its global experience of operating long-distance inter-city services to submit a final bid to the Department for Transport (DfT) later this year.

The partners’ bid is set to focus on the combination of Keolis’ proven franchise management skills and Eurostar’s record of customer service delivery and product innovation.

The bid is being led by Elaine Holt, a highly experienced, senior executive with more than 10 years’ experience in the transport sector. Elaine has previously held roles as chairman of East Coast and chief executive of Directly Operated Railways.

Alistair Gordon, CEO, Keolis UK, said: “We are pleased to be shortlisted for one the most important rail franchises in the country and we see this as a testament to the strength and quality of Keolis’ and Eurostar’s credentials both here in the UK and internationally.

“We will now concentrate on ensuring we deliver a robust bid that will detail a clear step change in the passenger experience and a renewed network for the long term benefit of UK rail.”

Nicolas Petrovic, Chief Executive of Eurostar, said: “The East Coast franchise represents an important opportunity for future growth and investment. Over the coming months, we will draw on our collective skills and expertise to present a compelling bid for this vital economic artery and key route.”

Through its joint ventures in the UK (Southern, Southeastern, London Midland and TransPennine Express) 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.

Over the past 20 years, Eurostar has demonstrated a clear commitment to customer service. Since its transformation into a standalone corporate entity in 2010, the business has also delivered a strong financial performance with year-on-year growth in revenues, passenger numbers and profitability.