The government has begun the sale of rights to operate Britain’s first high speed railway, High Speed 1, Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, announced today (21 June 2010). The sale will help raise funds for the public purse as well as creating better opportunities for new rail services to new destinations to run on the line.
From today (21 June 2010), bidders interested in running the 68 mile line - which links London to the Channel Tunnel - as well as stations such as St Pancras International, Stratford, Ashford and Ebbsfleet are being invited to come forward. The successful bidder will become the owner of HS1 Ltd which has a 30 year concession to run the line and stations.
Philip Hammond said:
High Speed 1 is a national success story and a world class railway operating to international standards. The money generated by this sale will make an early significant contribution to the crucial task of reducing the public sector debt.
That’s good news for the taxpayer. But the sale will also bring benefits to passengers as the successful private bidder will be incentivised to attract new operators serving new routes.
This is part of the government’s approach to making our national assets - and every taxpayer pound - work harder. The government does not have to run everything directly - we need to take prompt action where private enterprise can provide both a better deal and a superior service to the public.
High Speed 1 is currently used by international Eurostar services between London and European destinations as well as domestic high speed services between London and Kent. Following the sale, the performance of HS1 Ltd will be independently policed by the Office of Rail Regulation to ensure that rail passengers’ interests are effectively safeguarded.
Notes to editors
HS1 Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary of London and Continental Railways Ltd., which is, in turn, directly owned by the Secretary of State for Transport. As part of the general financial restructuring undertaken last summer the Secretary of State for Transport entered into a long-term Concession with HS1 Ltd to manage and operate the High Speed 1 railway between London and the Channel Tunnel. The government now intends to sell HS1 Ltd with that concession in place.
HS1 receives revenues from track access charges paid by train companies using the line including Eurostar, which operates services between London and European cities and Southeastern Trains, which operate domestic high speed services. A key objective for the future owner will be to try to attract onto the line new services, serving new destinations.
The sale process means that the Secretary of State for Transport will continue to own the infrastructure of the railway and the freehold to the associated land. HS1 Ltd will have the rights under the concession to sell access to track and stations on a commercial basis. It will have to preserve the nature and capacity of High Speed 1 as a high-speed railway and to maintain and renew it to modern standards.
The performance of HS1 Ltd under the concession will be independently policed by the Office of Rail Regulation. After 30 years, the current concession will cease and the government will once again enjoy unencumbered ownership of the assets, with the potential to re-let a further concession.
Bidders interested in purchasing HS1 Ltd must respond to the pre-qualification questionnaire published today (21 June 2010) by 12 noon on 9 July 2010. The sale is being managed on behalf of the government by London and Continental Railways Ltd, who are advised by UBS.