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UK rail operators Virgin and Stagecoach have teamed up with the French state-owned rail operator SNCF to bid to run the first trains on the High Speed 2 line from London to the north of England.

The companies have told the Department of Transport they intend to bid for the West Coast Partnership franchise, which is to run trains on the existing west coast line from 2019 as well as the first few years of the HS2 line.

SNCF, which runs the French network of TGV high-speed trains, has a 30 per cent stake in the bid vehicle. Stagecoach has half and Virgin has a one-fifth stake: the two companies run the existing West Coast franchise as a joint venture.

Guillaume Pepy, Chairman and CEO of SNCF said:

This is a very exciting development for SNCF. We are world leaders in high speed rail. SNCF has a long-standing commitment to working in partnership with British companies, using their local knowledge and sharing our expertise and experience.

Martin Griffiths, chief executive of Stagecoach Group, said:

This creates a powerful world-class partnership, bringing together the team which has transformed inter-city rail travel in the UK with the most recognised and capable high speed operator in Europe.

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