The shortlist for the new operator of the UK's East Coast Mainline train service has been announced by the Department for Transport.
Bids by Arriva Trains, First Rail, National Express Group have progressed to the next stage.
A proposal by Intercity-Railways, a joint venture between Stagecoach and Virgin, has also made the shortlist.
GNER, currently operating the line under a short term management deal, would not say if it had made a bid.
But it insisted it remained in "active discussions" with the shortlisted groups, and hoped to continue to be involved in operating the line through a partnership.
GNER won a 10-year franchise in March 2005, but it has faced financial woes since the London bombings, as passenger numbers dipped, power prices rose and Network Rail's compensation payments declined.
This coincided with financial problems at its parent company Sea Containers.
It surrendered the franchise, as it would not have been able to meet its terms which involved paying hundreds of millions of pounds to the government.
It is now operating the franchise on an agreed 18-month management contract.
The new East Coast franchise will run for a maximum of seven years and five months, with the final 17 months depending on the operator hitting performance targets.
The winning company must keep existing services as well as a regular half-hourly service between London and Leeds.
The operator is also expected to put in a "smart ticketing" system across the franchise area.
The East Coast Mainline runs from London to Scotland with stops including Doncaster, Newcastle and Edinburgh.