Transport business Go-Ahead is set to join the battle to run rail services in the West Midlands.
The company yesterday announced it has a bidding team in place to compete for the new regional operation which is up up for grabs next year.
That comes after the Department of Transport announced in October that Central Trains and Silverlink franchises would run until Autumn 2007.
A DTI spokeswoman said a new West Midlands franchise would be introduced, operating services currently run by Silverlink to and from Euston in London, together with regional and local services chiefly run by Central.
Go-Ahead is also planning to bid for a new East Midlands franchise, which is also in the pipeline.
Go-Ahead chairman Sir Patrick Brown - announcing six monthly results - said the business had "retained a bidding team to prepare for the forthcoming competitions for both the newly defined West Midlands and East Midlands franchises."
Rival company FirstGroup has already announced it was likely to bid for the West Midlands franchise.
The company reported an 11 per cent drop in interim underlying pre tax profit, reflecting the negative impact of last July's terrorist attacks in London and a sharp increase in fuel costs in the bus division.
Despite the drop in profit, Go-Ahead lifted its interim dividend 20 per cent and predicted a better second half performance.
Go-Ahead said it will seek "incremental acquisitions" for its bus business.
For the six months to December 31, the group made a profit before taxation, goodwill and intangible asset amortisation and exceptional items of #43.6 million.
That was better than analysts were expecting but down from a restated #49.1 million last time.
Turnover increased 6.5 per cent to #675.9 million.
Go-Ahead raised its interim dividend to 18p. from 15p last time, payable April 18 from underlying earnings per share of 55.9p, down from 61.3p.
Last year it acquired the biggest privately owned bus and coach operator in the region for #2 million.
The deal for Birmingham Passenger Transport Services - which trades as Birmingham Coach Company - marked the first move in to the region by Go-Ahead's bus business.
Its Aviance airport ground handling business has an operation at Birmingham Airport.
The group's bus services also include London Central and General, companies in North East England, Oxford, Brighton, Poole, Bournemouth, Southampton, Isle of Wight and routes in the Gatwick Airport and Crawley conurbation.
First half operating profit in this division slumped 20 per cent to #23 million,reflecting a fuel bill some #4.7 million higher than the previous year.