High-speed rail link London to Folkestone is sold

Japanese-built Javelin train The Japanese-built Javelin trains run on the rail link

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The UK government has sold the London to Folkestone high speed rail link to a Canadian consortium for £2.1bn ($3.4bn).

The consortium will take over a 30-year lease on the track and stations.

Analysts had been expecting the rail link, known as High Speed one (HS1), to be sold for a price of between £1.5bn and £2bn.

Eurostar trains to Paris and Brussels and Southeastern's Japanese-built Javelin trains operate on the track.

Other rail companies are also planning services to mainland Europe.

'Great news'

HS1 has been run by London and Continental Railway under the control of the Department for Transport.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the concession would lead to more services on the high speed line

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the deal with the Canadian consortium of Borealis Infrastructure and the Ontario Teachers' Pension fund was "great news for taxpayers and rail passengers alike".

"It is an enormous amount of money and is a big vote of confidence in UK plc and a big vote of market confidence in the future of UK high-speed rail," he said.

Addressing concerns that a key part of UK infrastructure is now in foreign hands, Mr Hammond said the UK government continued to own it and set the relevant regulations.

More operators

HS1, which cost more than £5bn to build, became fully operational in November 2007.

The route, which runs from London St Pancras to the Channel Tunnel, has stations at Stratford, east London, and Ebbsfleet and Ashford in Kent.

It is expected that the sale will open the line to more train operators.

German rail operator DB recently did a test run for one of its high-speed ICE trains by taking them through the tunnel and on to St Pancras.

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