Eurostar is to launch a bid to run the East Coast Main Line franchise when it is returned to the private sector.

The East Coast service has been run by the government for the last four years after former franchise operator National Express walked away from the contract.

Eurostar confirmed today (September 30) that it would take a minority stake in a new consortium led by French company Keolis which will apply for the East Coast franchise.

The East Coast line runs from London’s King’s Cross to the east Midlands, Yorkshire, north-east and Scotland.

Keolis, which is majority-owned by French rail giant SNCF, already operates four UK rail franchises: Southern, Southeastern, London Midland and Trans Pennine.

The winner of the East Coast franchise is due to be announced in October 2014, with the successful bidder taking over services from February 2015.

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.”

The announcement came just days after Eurostar revealed it would be operating a new service from London to Amsterdam from late 2016.

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