Posted 1st June 2010 | 1 Comment

First GBRf bought by Eurotunnel

THE freight operator First GBRf has been sold to Eurotunnel. The deal follows the purchase of EWS by Deutsche Bahn, and follows months of speculation about First's intentions over its freight arm -- which it acquired almost by accident in 2003.

GBRf had been bought with the rest of Anglia Railways by FirstGroup in an attempt to gain the Greater Anglia franchise when Anglia had been shortlisted in the competition. In the end, the SRA awarded Greater Anglia to National Express, leaving FirstGroup with a failed passenger franchise bidder but also a freight operation, which it has continued to develop as the third largest British freight operator, with its managing director John Smith at the helm.

Eurotunnel said the aquisition was in line with its development strategy and would not increase its debt. Chairman Jacques Gounon said: “Eurotunnel has always been a major link between the UK and France. The acquisition of GBRf is a further expression of our commitment to the United Kingdom and of our confidence in the potential that it holds. Growing concerns about the environment and the increasing need for freight transport over both long and short distances mean that rail freight is a buoyant market”.

Eurotunnel added thar GBRf is a profitable business employing 299 people and generating revenues of £56 million in 2009. It has clients from all sections of the rail freight sector.

The deal signals the end of First's involvement in railfreight. Originally a bus operator, FirstGroup also currently has three passenger rail franchises and the majority share of a fourth, Transpennine Express.

Reader Comments:

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  • Andrew Cardle, Lille, France

    The recent demise of "First Advenza now Fastline" raised concerns about the lack of compitition in the Railfreight sector. Eurotunnel is turning into a bit of a "thinking outside of the box sepecialist" first it reversed the question how can we service the debt into how much debt can the business service and on this basis refinanced. Now in a clever bit of joined up strategic thinking it is addressing the question of increasing the Rail Freight volumes going through the tunnel which have consistently been there or there about the tonnage carried on the Rail Ferries prior to 1994 when the tunnel opened.

    The big question: Blow- back a term originally coined by the CIA, to describe the unintended unforeseen outcomes of operations. The GBRF Memorandum of Information naturally contained going forward growth forecasts. One wonders how much of that growth is duplicated in the financial projections of GBRF’s competitors and whether one of the unforeseen or blow backs from the GBRF sale will be urgent strategy reviews by the other big gorilla’s in the Rail Sector Jungle.