GB Railways

GB Railways Group plc
Industry Rail
Fate Purchased by FirstGroup
Founded October 1996
Defunct August 2003
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Key people
Michael Schabas
Jeremy Long
Jim Morgan
Max Steinkopf
Services Passenger transportation
Freight transportation
Subsidiaries Anglia Railways
Hull Trains (80%)
GB Railfreight

GB Railways[1] was the parent company of a number of train operating companies, running the Anglia Railways franchise from January 1997 and launching Hull Trains and GB Railfreight.[2] GB Railways was also involved in the management of the Estonian rail company Edelaraudtee and had an investment in Great Southern Rail in Australia.

The company was acquired by FirstGroup in August 2003.


GB Railways was formed in October 1996 by entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds initially to bid for rail franchises in the United Kingdom during the privatisation of British Rail. After being awarded the Anglia franchise in 1996,[3][4][5][6] GB Railways was listed on the Alternative Investment Market in January 1997.[7]

In October 1997 as part of the Great Southern Railway Consortium with Legal & General, Macquarie Bank, RailAmerica, G13 Pty Ltd[8] and Serco, it acquired the interstate passenger services of Australian National Railways, which were operated as Great Southern Rail.[9] In 1998 GB Railways, as part of the Inter Capital Express consortium, was shortlisted for a high-speed rail service from Sydney to Canberra.[10] In September 2000 GB Railways, as part of the Western Freight consortium with AMEC Engineering, lodged a bid for the Westrail freight business in Western Australia.[11][12]

In October 1999 the company announced the sale of its 19.7% share in Great Southern Rail to Serco.[13]

In September 2000 GB Railways launched Hull Trains (with an 80% shareholding),[13] an open access InterCity rail operator running trains between Hull and London King's Cross.[14]

In November 2000 GB Railways acquired an interest in the Estonian passenger rail operator Edelaraudtee through Estonian subsidiary GB Railways Eesti AS, for 10million Kroon ($540,000), with investment and stock increase deals over five years as part of the agreement.[15][16] GB Railways owned 20% of the shares, with the majority owners being Edelaraudtee chairman Henn Ruubel and lawyer Marcel Vichmannile.[17][18][19] In 2002 GB Railways investment in the company was only £70,000 – it provided management to the company on a fee basis.[20]

GB Railways launched freight train operating company GB Railfreight in March 2001.[21]

In 2001 the company was rumoured to be in takeover talks with potential suitors. The company's services were badly affected by the speed restrictions imposed on all train operators by Railtrack after the Hatfield rail crash,[22] and was making a net loss despite receiving an increased subsidy from the Strategic Rail Authority.[23][24]

In 2002 a consortium of GNER and Freightliner attempted to acquire the company, valuing it at around £1 per share, or £8.75 million; GNER sought the passenger trains operations, whilst Freightliner sought the GB Railfreight subsidiary. The offer was rejected without discussion and the companies ceased the acquisition attempt.[25][26]

In July 2003 FirstGroup made a takeover offer for GB Railways, offering £2.50 per share offer, with further deferred consideration of £2.00 if the Greater Anglia franchise was won and £0.50 if either the Northern Rail or Wales & Borders franchises were won.[27][28] None of the bids were successful.[29][30][31]


Hull Trains continued as a subsidiary of FirstGroup, being rebranded First Hull Trains in 2008. FirstGroup sold GB Railfreight to Eurotunnel in June 2010.[32]


  1. Companies House extract company no 3263210 GB Railways Group plc
  2. GB Railways plc Corporate Brochure
  3. KPMG LLP (10 January 2010), Rail Franchising Policy: Analysis of Historic Data (PDF), Department of Transport, Section 3.1.1, "Anglia", p.24
  4. Gourvish, Terence Richard (2002), British rail, 1974–97: from integration to privatisation, Oxford University Press, p.517, Appendix L, Table L.2 "Franchised passenger services 1996-7"
  5. European Conference of Ministers of Transport : Competitive tendering of rail services, OECD Publishing, 2007, p.11, Table 1, "Rail Franchises – First Round"
  6. "GB Railways Group plc",, Bloomberg LP
  7. Tooher, Patrick (7 January 1997), "Debut by GB Rail nets founders pounds 2m paper profit", The Independent
  8. G13 Pty Ltd
  9. Great Southern Railway Consortium completes acquisition of Australian National Railways Passenger Business (PDF), Serco Group, 31 October 1997
  10. "Riding the Big Ticket" Railway Digest (Australian Rail Historical Society) August 1998 Page 18
  11. Westrail bids shortlisted Railway Gazette International 1 September 2000
  12. "Short List Announced for Westrail Freight Sale" Railway Digest (Australian Rail Historical Society) September 2000 Page 5
  13. 1 2 "GB Railways Grp PLC Final Results",, GB Railways Group plc, 8 June 2000
  14. "Still on the right track ten years after launch", This is Hull and East Riding, 6 October 2010
  15. Gunter, Aleksei (30 November 2000), "Passenger transportation projects rejected", The Baltic Times
  16. "Edelaraudtee sold to GB",, Railway Gazette International, 1 January 2001
  17. "Rail deal unveils shady investors", The Baltic Times, 9 August 2001
  18. "Estonia Passenger Services Restored – World Report", International Railway Journal, October 2001
  19. "Vichmann ja Ruubel said Edelaraudtee põhilisteks omanikeks", (in Estonian), 2 August 2001
  20. Annual Report 2002 GB Railways plc 31 March 2002
  21. "New rail freight player",, Railfuture, 31 March 2001
  22. Murray, Andrew (2001), Off the rails: Britain's great rail crisis : cause, consequences and cure, Verso, "Companies in trouble", pp.124–125
  23. Barker, Sophie (28 March 2002), "Hatfield-hit GB rail gets £23m hand-out", The Telegraph, The Telegraph
  24. Osborne, Alistair (19 June 2002), "GB Railways halts bid talks", The Telegraph, The Telegraph
  25. Osborne, Alistair (19 September 2002), "Spurned GB Rail bidder applies the brakes", The Telegraph, The Telegraph
  26. "Freightliner bid shunted away by GB", This is London, 18 September 2002
  27. Osborne, Alistair (17 July 2003), "First Group bids 500p a share for GB Railways", The Telegraph, The Telegraph
  28. Recommended cash offer for GB Railways Group plc FirstGroup plc 16 July 2003
  29. National Express Group Announced as Preferred Bidder for new Greater Anglia franchise Strategic Rail Authority 22 December 2003
  30. Serco-NedRailways Announced as Preferred Bidder for new Northern Rail Franchise Strategic Rail Authority 1 July 2004
  31. SRA Announces Preferred Bidder for New Integrated Wales Franchise Strategic Rail Authority 1 August 2003 Wales & Borders
  32. Wright, Robert (1 June 2010), "Eurotunnel in £30m Deal for GB Railfreight", FT, Pearson plc
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