Transport groups Keolis and Eurostar are reportedly ready to launch a joint bid to run the West Coast main line when the competition to operate one of the UK’s most lucrative rail routes starts later this year.

According to The Times the French consortium will battle with other companies including Stagecoach to run the line in 2017, when the current deal with Virgin Trains expires.

Keolis is 70 per cent owned by SNCF, France’s state-owned railway. In Britain, it is the junior partner to Go Ahead Group in Govia, the operator of the Southeastern, Southern, Thames-link and London Midland commuter routes into the capital. It also runs the Dockland Light Railway.

Eurostar operates services from London St. Pancras to Europe and is 40 per cent owned by the British taxpayer although chancellor George Osborne recently revealed he was looking to sell.

Keolis and Eurostar came second to Virgin in 2012 to run the East Coast main line rail service.

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