National Express has announced an agreement in principle to sell c2c to Italy’s state-owned rail operator, Trenitalia.
C2c, which was awarded a new 15-year contract for the Essex Thameside franchise in 2014, will become Trenitalia’s first foray into the UK’s train operating market.
In 2015, Trenitalia became one of the first operators to receive a PQQ Passport from the Department for Transport (DfT) – a process designed to streamline the tendering process and make it easier for companies to bid for multiple franchises without duplicating paperwork.
National Express said it had been discussing partnership opportunities with Trenitalia on future franchises prior to receiving the offer for c2c.
The acquisition, estimated to be worth around £70 million, requires final approval from the DfT, but National Express said it expects to receive this within the next few weeks.
Announcing the sale, National Express chief executive Dean Finch indicated the company’s intention to focus on its activities in North America and continental Europe.
“National Express has been immensely proud of c2c’s transformation on our watch,” said Dean Finch. “From converting c2c into the UK’s consistently best performing franchise, we have also recently pioneered customer service standards with automatic delay compensation and flexi-season tickets, for example.
“While this has, therefore, not been an easy decision, the board believes the transfer of c2c to Trenitalia UK presents opportunities for all concerned.
“We have been impressed by the commitment and interest shown by Trenitalia and are grateful for the support shown by DfT in this process.
“Trenitalia has significant rail credentials and is excited by the opportunity to invest in the new agenda set out by the Secretary of State.
“For National Express, while not ruling out participating in future UK rail bids, this allows us to pursue further growth opportunities in the markets where we have seen strong returns in the recent years.”
Barbara Morgante, chief executive of Trenitalia, said the company now plans to bid for more routes in the UK.
“We see significant chances to invest in UK rail and this in principle agreement with National Express allows us to foster these ambitions. This is why we are extremely delighted to have this exciting opportunity to run the UK’s consistently best performing railway and serve the people of East London and South Essex.
“We will work closely with customers and local stakeholders to apply our vision and deliver improvements that will be visible and valuable; we are confident that British customers will benefit from our skill and capabilities developed in the highly competitive Italian market.
“We are also closely monitoring the Railways Franchising Programme as we intend to participate in tenders issued by the DfT to strengthen our presence in UK.”