First Group, which runs the Great Western Rail Service, will keep the franchise for a further three years.
The new timetable for rail franchise bids was announced by the Transport Secretary this morning.
First Group was due to bid again this October for the service operating trains from the West Country to London Paddington. This has now been delayed and they won't have to bid again until July 2016.
Virgin confirms it is planning to bid for the East Coast line franchise.
Nearly every planned new franchise date has been put back under changes to the system:
- On the West Coast, Virgin originally agreed to carry on running the line until November 2014. However, the Government says the new franchise won't start until April 2017
- The Great Western franchise due to end in October this year, won't start until July 2016
- Northern franchise, due to end in April 2014, won't begin until February 2016
- South Eastern franchise, due to end in April 2014 won't start until June 2018
- Essex Thameside, where the franchise ends in May this year won't begin until September 2014
The East Coast rail line runs from London to Scotland's major cities, including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow.
Over three years ago the line had to be nationalised because operator National Express revealed it couldn't afford to pay the franchise. The company was commited to a £1.4 billion contract.
No formal bidders have yet been confirmed, but it could reignite competition between Virgin Trains and FirstGroup who went head-to-head to run the West Coast line.
– 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.
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.
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?"
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.