FirstGroup is to take over the running of the West Coast mainline train route, connecting London Euston to Glasgow Central, from December.
Along with Italian firm Trenitalia, FirstGroup said the route would pave the way for an era of high-speed rail.
First Trenitalia replaces Virgin Trains, which was barred from bidding to keep the route.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the bid was part of a shift to a new model for rail.
Mr Shapps said the partnership was supported by Keith Williams, who has been commissioned to look at changes to the rail franchising system and who told the BBC that government involvement should be limited to overall policy and budget decisions.
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