Ashurst is advising National Express on the planned termination of its East Coast mainline franchise.
Ashurst has been sole adviser to the transport company since the franchise was awarded to National Express subsidiary NXEC in 2007, with corporate partner Steven Fox believed to be taking a lead role. The firm declined to comment today on the matter.
A source with knowledge of the arrangement commented: “National Express completely overbid at the top of the market in 2007. The chief executive [Richard Bowker] was adamant he wanted it, he bid for the same franchise when he was at Virgin and didn’t win it.
“[National Express] tried to negotiate a management contract as soon as it became clear [the loss it was incurring] would kill the rest of the National Express Group.”
Operation of the route will fall into government hands once National Express East Coast ceases to exist.
The Department for Transport (DfT), which is understood to be receiving advice from internal counsel at this stage, is expected to put the franchise up for tender at the end of 2010.