Stagecoach and rail men in bid battle for two lines

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CHRISTIAN WOLMAR

Stagecoach, Britain's biggest bus company, yesterday announced it was forming a joint venture with a group of railway managers to bid for two of the rail franchises put on the market earlier this week.

The management buy-out team for Network SouthCentral, which runs mostly commuter lines out of Victoria has linked up with Stagecoach to form Capital Coast Railways to bid for NSC and Gatwick Express which runs the shuttle between Victoria and the airport.

The chairman of the new company will be Stagecoach's managing director, Brian Soutter and its managing director will be Graham Eccles who also currently runs NSC. Mr Eccles said that the arrangement with Stagecoach would bring much needed private expertise to the MBO bid: "We feel there is great synergy between our two organisations".

The bid will mean that two sets of railway managers will be competing for the two lines since Gatwick Express's management team has also expressed interest in both.

Mr Eccles said there were considerable savings to be made by running both lines together and that this would not prevent the retention of both a fast shuttle service to Gatwick airport and slower stopping trains, as has been the case for a number of years.

With revenues of just pounds 27m, Gatwick is the smallest of the 25 rail franchises. NSC has revenues of pounds 157m.

However the joint bids pose a problem for Roger Salmon the franchising director, who will have to choose between the competing bids.

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