Virgin Rail is bidding for the east coast franchise, which is now operated by GNER but is up for renewal next April. Success would give the company, which is 49% owned by Stagecoach, a near monopoly on express routes running north and south in England. Virgin already operates the west coast and cross-country routes. The company reckons it has spent nearly £2 billion on its new Voyager and Pendolino tilting trains and on April 23 this year, tilting finally began on a 20-mile stretch between Oxford and Banbury. Sales at Virgin Rail reached £556m in 2003.
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