GB Railways looks for partners for future UK franchise bids

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GB Railways, operator of the Anglia Railways service, yesterday unveiled plans to bid for future UK franchises in partnership with other companies.

Jeremy Long, the company's chief executive, said this could result in it teaming up with construction companies or overseas rail operators who might also take a stake in the group.

GB Railways made the announcement as it reported a three-fold increase in losses to £3.3m but said its cash position was now secure, after a £1.9m compensation settlement with Railtrack for disruption caused by the Hatfield disaster.

GB Railways' finances were hit last year by a £5.2m decline in subsidies, and the group warned that it could not afford to be complacent this year, with subsidies falling by a further £3.5m.

Mr Long would not comment on the identity of potential partners. But one option would be to team with GB Railways as a partner on its £200m scheme to build a new railway linking Cambridge and Oxford.

The Strategic Rail Authority is redrawing the franchise map and is expected to invite bids for a new "Anglian" franchise later this year, incorporating the Anglia franchise with National Express's West Anglia franchise and First group's Great Eastern franchise. Mr Long said GB Railways would bid aggressively for the new franchise. It is already bidding for the Thameslink franchise and has also pre-qualified for the Wessex franchise.

Passenger numbers are back to where they were before Hatfield, but Mr Long said they were still 12 per cent down on what had been estimated before the derailment, given that traffic had been growing strongly.

He said after the settlement with Railtrack, the net loss to the group from Hatfield would be £3m to £5m. This does not include the higher than expected £1.4m in start-up losses that GB Railways incurred on the September launch of its Hull Trains service, which was also badly affected by Hatfield.

Mr Long said the new east-west route could be operating in three years.