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13 February 2017, 10:54
Italy's Trenitalia has completed the acquisition of the c2c rail operation from National Express.
The sale of the franchise, which runs from the City of London to Essex, signals National Express's exit from the UK rail market.
The £72.6 million deal, announced last month, has been formally approved by the Department for Transport (DfT), Trenitalia said.
Passengers will benefit from "innovative technology" that has been proven in the Italian railway market, according to the firm.
Trenitalia joins a string of European state-owned operators running services in the UK, including the Netherlands' Abellio, France's Keolis and Germany's Deutsche Bahn, which owns Arriva.
On January 24 Trenitalia and FirstGroup revealed they are to jointly bid to run high-speed trains on the HS2 network.
The transport companies will enter the competition for the West Coast Partnership franchise, which will cover services on the existing West Coast route from 2019 and initial HS2 trains between London and the West Midlands.
They will also bid together for the East Midlands franchise starting in July next year.
Barbara Morgante, chief executive of Trenitalia, said: "I am pleased that we have been able to conclude this acquisition so rapidly, and we can now immediately start to concentrate on the day-to-day business of c2c.
"Under the leadership of Julian Drury, we will continue to focus on delivering the outstanding service that helped make c2c the best performing operator in the UK and we will collaborate with the management to introduce further improvements.
"In addition to the c2c acquisition, our recent participation in the East Midlands and West Coast Partnership bids shows that we are strongly committed to the UK market, and look forward to passengers increasingly benefiting from our experience, competence and ability to innovate.''
The c2c service runs between Fenchurch Street and Shoeburyness, covering 26 stations across east London and south Essex.
Trenitalia is owned by the FS Italiane Group, which runs 8,000 trains a day, serving 600 million passengers.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT trade union, said: "Today's announcement is another stage in the take-over of UK rail by foreign states while the Tories' ideological hatred of the public sector prevents the British state ownership of our railway.
"Profits are set be creamed off from the UK to pay for new trains and lower fares in Italy. That is a national scandal.''