HSF and Macfarlanes advise Stagecoach and Virgin on East Coast mainline franchise

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) and Macfarlanes have taken the lead roles for Stagecoach and Virgin on their joint-venture company’s deal with the Department of Transport (DfT) to secure the franchise for the re-privatised East Coast mainline.

Stagecoach, owner of 90 per cent of joint venture company Inter City Railways, was represented by HSF corporate partners Ben Ward and Adrian Clough alongside the company’s legal team Andrew Levy and Iain Lorne. 

HSF also represented joint venture company Inter City Railways during the negotiations for the East Coast main line, which was publicly owned since 2009. 

Macfarlanes represented Virgin Group, which owns the remaining 10 per cent stake of Inter City Railways. Group legal director Robert Blok led Virgin Group’s in-house team, and partner Simon Perry led the team from Macfarlanes.

The new company will run the London-Edinburgh trains on the east coast after being granted the deal by the DfT, which was advised by Norton Rose Fulbright’s team led by head of rail Tom Johnson. It is expected that Inter City Railways will take hold of the franchise by the 1 March 2015.

This is not the first joint venture between Stagecoach and Virgin Group – the companies already run the West Coast mainline through shared company Virgin Rail Group, which is 51 per cent owned by Virgin and 49 per cent owned by Stagecoach. 

Background to the deal

HSF has advised Stagecoach for around 20 years, and Ward is the company’s client relationship partner. The firm has completed substantial transactional work for the company tend to work on all of its significant acquisitions, disposals, transport and corporate work.

HSF and Macfarlanes are members of Virgin’s UK legal panel (24 June 2014) and are long-standing advisers with respect to the franchise arrangements. HSF also works for the company in other remits.