Duke Street acquires Great Rail Journeys from ECI


Duke Street, the UK based mid-market private equity firm, has acquired Great Rail Journeys (‘GRJ’), the world’s leading provider of escorted rail holidays, from ECI. The terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.

York based Great Rail Journeys offers almost 400 itineraries to over 50 countries globally. GRJ caters for a growing demographic group of culturally interested 55+ year old travellers who typically prioritise travel spend within their household budgets. Popular itineraries include a tour of India’s “Golden Triangle”, exploring the Swiss Alps on the Glacier Express and an iconic journey across Africa from Dar es Salaam to Cape Town. Last year, over 50,000 customers enjoyed a GRJ holiday and the Company is proud that over half of its business each year comes from its database.

Over the last five years GRJ has performed strongly, tapping into new source markets for its rail tours including Australia and more recently the US, following the establishment of an office in New York in 2017. The business has also just launched, for summer 2019, a unique and highly differentiated rail based premium river cruise offering which builds upon very strong pre-existing demand for such holidays from within its customer database.

Duke Street plans to support the existing management team, led by Peter Liney, to develop the business’ rail and cruise offerings further, both in the UK and internationally, building on their significant experience in the leisure sector. Following the acquisition, Charles Gurassa will be appointed as Chairman. As well as extensive experience of the travel sector gathered during his executive career, Charles’ current non-Executive board roles include Chairman of Channel 4, Deputy Chairman of Easyjet and Senior Independent Director at Merlin Entertainments.

Tom Salmon, Partner at Duke Street, said:

“Our experience of backing market leaders in growing segments of the European leisure sector makes Great Rail Journeys a very exciting investment proposition. It is an outstanding business which delivers very high quality service to its clients. Having known Peter Liney for a number of years, we are looking forward to working with him, Charles Gurassa and the wider team to continue to grow the business both in the UK and internationally.”

Peter Liney, CEO of Great Rail Journeys, said:

“We are delighted to be partnering with Duke Street. The team very quickly demonstrated a clear understanding of our business, and their experience both of growing businesses in the US and of river cruising was highly attractive to us. After five great years of working with ECI, who have helped us to internationalise the business, add new product lines, grow our profits and develop our management team, we are very excited to embark on the next chapter of our story with Duke Street.”