Keolis and Eurostar International have announced their intention to launch a joint bid for the UK East Coast rail franchise. The successful bidder for the franchise is expected to be awarded a contract in October 2014, with the franchise commencing in February 2015.

Keolis, one of Europe’s leading transport operators, will be the lead partner in the bidding consortium while a minority share will be held by Eurostar, the high-speed international rail operator. The franchise will operate under a new, distinct brand.

The combination of Keolis’ proven franchise management skills and bid expertise, coupled with Eurostar’s record of customer service delivery and product innovation presents a compelling proposition for the future growth of East Coast services.

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.

Over the last 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.

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 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.

“We feel that our pedigree of international rail know-how and specifically as delivery partner for the UK’s first domestic high-speed service, makes us ideally placed to realise the East Coast Mainline’s potential.

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”.