The true cost of the fiasco over the West Coast Main Line franchise is only just beginning to become clear.
The Government has hailed a "landmark victory" for its HS2 high-speed rail scheme, despite legal flaws in the consultation process.
At a cost of £33 billion, this train line is neither cheap nor very popular with those living along its route.
The Government showed its determination to keep the £33 billion HS2 rail project firmly on track by announcing proposed legislation in the Queen's Speech.
The first phase of the controversial scheme, from London to Birmingham, runs through Tory heartlands and is bitterly opposed by some residents' groups and some councils.
But the project has all-party support today an HS2 Hybrid Bill was announced as well as a High Speed Rail Preparation Bill.
The Hybrid Bill will not only give the Government parliamentary permission to build the line, but any specific powers needed to operate it.
The Preparation Bill will provide the financial powers to proceed with HS2 more quickly than otherwise possible.
This Bill will allow expenditure on the construction design of HS2 as well ecological surveys and other preparatory work. It will also provide Parliamentary authority for expenditure on property compensation.
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?"