It has had a turbulent few years, changing hands three times, but the East Coast Mainline rail franchise is now officially up for grabs again. The route is currently operated by the Government after two previous franchises failed.
Meanwhile, the Transport Secretary has also announced that Ilkeston in Derbyshire is in line to get a station again after more than four decades without. John Willats has this report.
Virgin confirms it is planning to bid for the East Coast line franchise.
Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Maria Eagle MP, has criticised the Conservative's plan to privatise the East Coast Main Line franchise when it's already 'on track'.
The line is currently operated by the Government, after two previous private franchise deals with GNER and National Express.
– Maria Eagle MP, Shadow Transport Secretary
With the Government’s rail franchising programme in chaos, it is a bizarre and dogmatic decision to prioritise the privatisation of a service that is actually on track.
Since running services on a not for private profit basis, the East Coast operator has returned £640m to the taxpayer and invested more than £40m in improvements to the service.
It’s clear that the Government has learnt nothing from the franchising fiasco that could eventually see more than £100m of taxpayers’ money go down the drain as a result of ministerial incompetence.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin today unveiled long-term plans designed to drive improvements to rail services and deliver on major infrastructure projects.
As part of his plan, The Transport Secretary has confirmed that three new stations are likely to be built across the UK. One of those is expected to be at Ilkeston in Derbyshire.
A final announcement is expected to be made by the Secretary of State for Transport in May.
– Patrick McLoughlin, Transport Secretary
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.
Franchising has been a force for good in the story of Britain's railways, transforming an industry that was in decline into one that today carries record numbers of passengers.
Today's announcement for the East Coast franchise comes as the Transport Secretary unveils plans to overhaul the entire rail franchising system.
- It includes a detailed timetable for all rail franchises over the next 8 years
- Provide long-term certainty to the market
- Deliver on the independent Brown Review of rail reform
- Put passengers at the heart of the revitalised system
The changes comes after the Government took a U-turn on the decision to award FirstGroup the West Coast Mainline, after finding "significant technical flaws" in the way the bid was handled.
Today the government will announce plans to re-open the rail franchising process, six months after the collapse of the West Coast Mainline deal.
It is thought that the priority will be to agree a new ownership deal for the East Coast mainline.
The rail route will be put back into private ownership after a long period under state control.
Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle has told Daybreak that the Government's plan to prioritise a new ownership deal for the East Coast mainline is "a bit of an odd choice".
"Competition has failed twice in spectacular fashion" on the East Coast franchise, she said, "now that [they] are putting that right, returning money to the treasury, returning money to the taxpayer, improving services... why is it a priority?"
Private companies have been invited to bid for the East Coast rail franchise by the Department for Transport. The line has been run in the public sector since 2009.