Eurostar has announced that it is launching a joint bid with French company Keolis to run the East Coast line.
It comes after a controversial move by the UK Government to hand the franchise back to the private sector.
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It has been run under the control of the Department for Transport, through the state-owned East Coast, since November 2009 after National Express pulled out of the franchise mid-term.
The Department for Transport said it expects to issue an invitation to tender in February 2014, after which bidding can formally begin.
The successful bidder for London King's Cross and Edinburgh Waverley route will be announced in October 2014. Virgin Trains and First Group, which runs ScotRail, are also expected to bid for the franchise.
Eurostar chief executive Nicolas Petrovic said: "By joining forces with Keolis, we bring a unique blend of expertise and innovation with a fresh perspective.
"The East Coast franchise is a vital economic artery and a key route for both business and leisure passengers, which represents an exciting opportunity for future growth and investment."
Keolis, which is majority owned by French company SNCF, has considerable experience in UK rail. It jointly operates four franchises - Southern, Southeastern, London Midland and TransPennine Express.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: "We have always been clear that we are interested in receiving good quality bids from a range of operators."