The government is looking for a buyer for its 40 per cent stake in the cross-channel Eurostar to raise up to £300m.
Chancellor George Osborne has invited bidders for the train operator, which is also owned by the French state-owned rail operator SNCF and the Belgian state-owned SNCB, and hopes to finalise the sale during the first quarter of 2015.
The sale is part of the government’s national infrastructure plan which aims to sell off £20bn-worth of public assets by 2020.
Osborne said: "I am determined that we go on making the decisions to reform the British economy and tackle our debts. So we will proceed with the potential sale of the UK’s shareholding in Eurostar today.
"Ensuring we can deliver the best quality infrastructure for Britain and the best value for money for the taxpayer are key parts of our long-term economic plan. As part of our aim to achieve £20bn from asset sales by 2020, the sale proceeds would make an important contribution to the task of reducing the public sector debt."
France and Belgium are said to have ruled out buying the UK’s 40 per cent stake, but infrastructure funds, pension funds and insurance funds are thought to have expressed interest. UBS is advising the government on the sale.
Other assets potentially up for sale include Urenco, the uranium enrichment company of which the government owns a third, Royal Mail pension assets and the government student loan book.