HS1 seeks agency to raise voice in British transport debate

Rail link operator seeks comms help as Government considers future of British transport.

Cross-country: HS1 runs from London to the Channel Tunnel
Cross-country: HS1 runs from London to the Channel Tunnel

The operator of the UK's flagship high-speed rail link has launched a £500k hunt for agency counsel to help amplify its voice in the debate over the future of British transport.

As plans for the controversial HS2 rail link continue to hit the headlines, HS1 - the rail link that connects London with the Channel Tunnel - is seeking corporate and consumer help from one or more agencies.

A key focus for HS1 is to raise its profile as the Government wrestles with issues around increasing transport provision, amid ongoing coalition divisions over London airport expansion.

The work, currently held by Place PR, is likely to involve running the press office, and ranges from crisis comms to media relations and experiential. The appointed agency will be charged with handling high profile crises and issues, such as the revelation this summer that taxpayers have been saddled with £4.8bn of debt due to over-optimistic forecasts by the Department for Transport over the number of people likely to use HS1.

But one well-placed industry source said the work would also firmly focus on building up passenger numbers through experiential activities. Recent consumer work by Place involved promotion of the line as the 'javelin train' for the Olympics.

A spokeswoman for the company said the process was in the early stages, with a decision expected to be made by April. She added: 'Our strategy is to deliver the world's leading railway, and we would expect all our suppliers and delivery partners to work with us in delivering that ambition.'

Ben Ruse, partner at Place PR, said: 'This is a positive brief. We've known about the repitch and we look forward to being involved with it.'

HS1 is a private firm that owns the UK side of the line running from London to the Channel Tunnel, having bought it from the DfT and London & Continental Railways in 2010.

HS1 TIMELINE

July-August 2012 The HS1 line is used for the Olympic Javelin Train from St Pancras to Stratford

July 2012 A committee of MPs says over-estimation of passenger numbers using HS1 by the DfT in 1995 led to £4.8bn in debt for taxpayers

2011 Restoration work around HS1's landmark station, St Pancras, finishes

2007 The full HS1 line opens.

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