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East Coast Trains: Customers may travel at any time

East Coast Trains is one of many rail companies that have lifted restrictions on when passengers can travel tonight and tomorrow.

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Ticket restrictions are lifted for the remainder of tonight and tomorrow. Customers may travel at any time #UKStorm

Read: Network Rail imposes speed restrictions on main routes

Watch: Planes struggle to land at Birmingham Airport

Eurostar joins bidding to run East Coast rail route

Eurostar would take a minority share in the Keolis-Eurostar consortium. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive

Eurostar has launched a joint bid with French company Keolis to run the East Coast rail route from London to Scotland.

The winner of the bidding is due to be announced in October 2014, with the new franchise on track for a re-launch in February 2015.

East Coast has been operated in the public sector since 2009 after National Express pulled out. Its return to private hands has been opposed by Labour and rail unions.

Keolis jointly operates Southern, Southeastern, London Midland and TransPennine Express within the UK with the Go-Ahead Group.

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First Group keeps hold of Great Western Rail Service

First Group will keep the franchise for a further three years. Credit: Fiona Hanson/PA Archive

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.

Rail franchise timetable faces delays

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

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East Coast bids open after National Express pulled out

The East Coast rail line runs from London to Scotland's major cities, including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow.

Empty train at King's Cross Station
Empty train at King's Cross Station Credit: Press Association

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.

Passengers to help decide who runs rail services

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.

– Patrick McLoughlin, Transport Secretary

Overhaul of entire rail franchising system

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.

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