State-owned ADIA, considered the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, is said to be in the “very early stages” regarding its involvement in the bid.
The sale process could fetch £1.5bn to £2bn.
The sale of the 110-km High Speed 1 (HS1) line, which links central London to the Channel Tunnel, will be the first major British transport infrastructure sale since airport operator BAA sold London’s Gatwick airport late last year. ADIA bought a 15 per cent stake in Gatwick Airport earlier this year.
Britain began the sale of the rights to operate the country’s only high-speed railway in June, helping raise much-needed funds for the public purse.
Other bidders include Channel Tunnel operator Groupe Eurotunnel, which is working on a bid with Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners, its biggest shareholder, and with Infracapital, the infrastructure arm of Prudential unit M&G.
Currently, Eurostar runs inter-continental trains on the line and Southeastern runs domestic services. But following the relaxation of rules on who can use the line, there is a queue of potential operators hoping to compete on the route.
Deutsche Bahn has been given permission to use the line, while French operator Veolia wants to run trains from Paris to London. Spanish operator Renfe is considering linking London to Spain.