Government sells rights to operate high-speed railway

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The government announced yesterday that it has begun the sale of rights to operate ’High Speed 1’, Britain’s first high-speed railway.

The 68-mile line links London to the Channel Tunnel, as well as stations including St Pancras International, Stratford, Ashford and Ebbsfleet.

The successful bidder will become the owner of HS1 Ltd, which has a 30-year concession to run the line and stations.

HS1 Ltd receives revenues from track access charges paid by train companies using the line. According to a statement from the Department for Transport, a key objective for the future owner will be to try to attract onto the line new services, serving new destinations.

‘The money generated by this sale will make an early significant contribution to the crucial task of reducing the public sector debt,’ said transport secretary Philip Hammond. ‘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.