Britsh transport group Arriva is considering expanding its continental European rail operations, it emerged today.
The Sunderland-based train and bus operator is examining opportunities to run trains in Germany, a report said.
Arriva is also looking at possibilities for expansion into rail in Italy and Portugal, where it runs buses.
The group, which runs rail services in the north east of England and Wales, already operates trains in Jutland in Denmark and Groeningen in the Netherlands.
It is reported to be considering taking advantage of the increasingly liberalised German rail market, where regional and local authorities are putting subsidised services out to tender.
Chief executive Bob Davies told the Financial Times that German state-owned railway Deutsche Bahn (DB) had lost much of its market share to local, municipally owned companies.
“That to me creates a huge opportunity for a commercial operator,” Mr Davies said.
Arriva runs the Arriva Trains Northern franchise in the north east of England and began operating the new Wales & Borders franchise in December.
The company failed in its attempts to win the Merseyrail and Greater Anglia franchises.
But it is bidding to run the expanded Northern franchise, which covers the whole of northern England, and the replacement ScotRail franchise.
The group was already Denmark’s single biggest bus operator before it won the right to run Danish rail services in January 2002.
It took over passenger rail services in much of central and northern Jutland from state-owned railway DSB, representing 15% of Denmark’s passenger rail network, on a seven-year contract.
The company faced criticism from the Danish authorities and newspapers after it initially underestimated the number of drivers it would need and was forced to cancel trains or replace them with buses.
The problems were overcome when DSB took back temporary control of part of Arriva’s network, giving the UK company time to train new drivers.
Arriva is one of only two UK operators operating rail services in continental Europe.
First Group-owned GB Railways, which recently lost its Greater Anglia franchise to National Express, runs trains in Estonia.
The other major involvement of UK rail companies in mainland Europe is in train leasing.
Derby-based leasing group Porterbrook has hired out a number of locomotives to several continental private operators.