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Rail partners bid for UK route

US CONSTRUCTION giant Bechtel and train operator Virgin Rail this week announced plans to create a rail infrastructure company in the UK to own and operate 190km of high speed railway between London and Edinburgh.

The proposal to establish a new line company was embedded in Virgin Rail's ú4.6bn ($8.5bn) bid to win the 20 year franchise to run the East Coast Main Line from 2003.

Bechtel has agreed to be an equity partner together with Virgin and bus company Stagecoach. At present, Railtrack is not part of the venture but if the bid is successful Virgin hopes Railtrack will join.

The ú4.6bn bid, submitted to the shadow Strategic Rail Authority on 21 February, outlines plans to invest ú3.3bn upgrading the ECML infrastructure.

The bid also includes a ú1.3bn plan to buy 60 French high speed TGV trains, of which 15 are expected to start running by 2005, with the rest by 2010.

The plan would see 190km of new high speed twin track constructed to bypass two sections of the existing line that will be used exclusively by the 330km/h TGVs.

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