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Virgin trains consortium chosen to run East Coast main line franchise

A consortium involving Sir Richard Branson's train company Virgin Trains has been chosen to run the East Coast main line franchise from next year.

Virgin Trains has been chosen to run the East Coast main line franchise Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the consortium involving Virgin and transport company Stagecoach, who already run the West Coast line, will start the East Coast franchise in March 2015.

There has been speculation that a consortium of Eurotunnel and French company Keolis which is 70% owned by French state railway SNCF, had been chosen as the new East Coast operator.

But Eurotunnel/Keolis have now missed out, as have the other shortlisted bidder, FirstGroup (correct) which has recently also lost its First Capital Connect and ScotRail franchises.

Signal fault delays East Coast Main Line

Commuters faced long queues on station platforms after a signal fault on one of the country's busiest rail routes caused delays.

The problem with the signalling system between Alexandra Palace and New Barnet in north London caused disruption to East Coast Main Line services.

Network Rail and First Capital Connect apologised for the disruption.

"Our engineers have been out on site since early this morning and are working to fix the problem as soon as possible.

"An investigation into the root cause of the failure is also under way."

The problem could be fixed by midday, the East Coast operator said.

"A limited East Coast service is operating via Hertford, with journey times extended by up to 45 minutes.

"Network Rail, who are responsible for signalling, track and overhead power lines, expect signalling to be restored by around 12 midday; disruption to some services can then be expected until mid-afternoon."

– Phil Verster, route managing director for Network Rail

Click here for updated train running information.

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Calls to keep East Coast trains in public ownership

An East Coast Main Line train calls at Peterborough station Credit: ITV Anglia

Calls are being made for East Coast Main Line trains to remain in public ownership.

The service, which runs through Stevenage and Peterborough, has reported a return of more than £200 million since it was re-nationalised when the previous private operator handed back the franchise.

Green Party politicians are planning to hand in a petition containing 23,000 signatures calling for the service not to be franchised back to the private sector

Bidding starts to run East Coast main line

The East Coast main line, which runs through Stevenage and Peterborough, is to be re-privatised under plans announced by the Government.

The franchise has in the past been given up twice by the private sector, with the line being run by the Department for Transport since the end of 2009.

A bidding competition has now started with a new operator expected to be in place by February 2015.

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Transport union critical of East Coast main line announcement

A transport union boss has described the Government's announcement to privatise the East Coast main line as "profiteering".

General secretary of the RMT Bob Crow said: "Despite wasting hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on the franchising circus, and instead of learning the lessons of the privatisation disasters on the East and West Coast main lines and across the rest of the network,

the Government has this morning given the green light to a whole new wave of profiteering that will have the train companies laughing all the way to the bank."

Privatisation puts passengers 'in the driving seat'

The Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said privatising the East Coast main line would put passengers "in the driving seat".

Mr McLoughlin said: "This programme is a major step in delivering tangible improvements to services, providing long-term certainty to the market and supporting our huge programme of rail investment.

"Above all, in future franchise competitions we are placing passengers in the driving seat by ensuring that their views and satisfaction levels are taken into account when deciding which companies run our railway services."

Rail investment: East Coast main line

Rail infrastructure set for investment Credit: ITV Anglia

By next year passengers can expect trains to be less packed. A new flyover at Hitchin will carry trains from London to Cambridge over the main line, relieving a key bottleneck.

New platforms planned for Peterborough should increase capacity and reduce congestion there.

From 2014 new trains through the Intercity Express Programme will provide more seats, and £240m will be invested in key pinch points on the East Coast main line including Peterborough.

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