Bidding begins for East Coast

The East Coast main line is expected to be back in private hands in less than two years under rail franchise plans announced by the Government today.

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Full Report: Bids begin for East Coast privatisation

Bids can begin for the East Coast mainline after the Government invited private companies to takeover the running of the service within the next two years.

Virgin Trains had already registered their interest within hours of the announcement - and more companies are set to follow.

The line was nationalised in 2009 when National Express struggled to meet their costs, but the Government now say that it is in the interest of passengers for it to be handed back to a private company.

However, unions believe that the move would waste millions of pounds.

You can watch the full report from Dan Ashby below.

Dan joins Pam in the studio to explain what privatising East Coast could mean

The government has announced that the North East's most important rail route will be run by a private company within two years time.

Bidding opened today for the East Coast mainline, and already Virgin Trains has expressed an interest.

Our correspondent Dan Ashby joined Pam in the studio to explain more about what the move to privatisation could mean for the North East.

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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 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.

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Unions: Politicians have learned nothing about railways

Rail unions reacted with dismay to the East Coast news, pointing out that the private sector had twice given up the franchise, with GNER pulling out some years ago.

They also highlighted the fact that the taxpayer is likely to have to foot a bill as high as £50 million over the botched West Coast franchise.

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.

– RMT general secretary Bob Crow

The proposed reprivatisation of the East Coast, after the public sector rescued the service following two private failures, proves conclusively that the political class have learnt absolutely nothing when it comes to our railways.

This is a politically-inspired wrecking move designed to flog off this publicly-owned intercity route before the next election regardless of the consequences.

– RMT general secretary Bob Crow

He continued.

With this news coming just a day before the 50th anniversary of the Beeching Report that ripped Britain's railways to pieces, the ConDem administration is setting up yet another sell-off of state assets in a further act of grotesque rail vandalism.

The public need to know that, while fares are going up and safety is being compromised, the Government's priority remains the profits of the greedy train operating companies. No wonder 70% of the people now support RMT's call for full renationalisation.

– RMT general secretary Bob Crow
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Labour: Franchising won't help passengers

Maria Eagle MP, Shadow Transport Secretary, has responded to the Government’s plans for rail franchising:

“The full scale of the chaos caused by the Government’s rail franchising fiasco has now been revealed with almost every contract delayed by up to a staggering fifty months. Ministers have still not come clean about the full extent of the losses facing taxpayers as a result of this scandal, despite many industry experts putting the likely cost at well over £100 million and a series of legal disputes yet to be settled.

– Maria Eagle MP, Shadow Transport Secretary

It is completely the wrong decision to focus obsessively on an unnecessary privatisation of InterCity services on the East Coast, instead of prioritising getting the existing stalled franchise programme back on track. Ministers must be very careful not to mislead the public as they make their case for this misguided sell-off. It is simply wrong to suggest that planned public investment in the East Coast Main Line by Network Rail and the taxpayer funded order for a new generation of InterCity trains would not be happening without this privatisation.

– Maria Eagle MP, Shadow Transport Secretary

The truth is that the current not for private profit operator has returned £640 million to taxpayers and reinvested a further £40 million, profit that in future will be shared with shareholders rather than benefiting passengers under the Government’s plans.

– Maria Eagle MP, Shadow Transport Secretary
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East Coast rail line open for bids

The East Coast main line is expected to be back in private hands in less than two years under rail franchise plans announced by the Government.

The line has been run under the control of the Department for Transport since November 2009 after transport company National Express pulled out.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced the start of a bidding competition for the East Coast franchise with an expected start of service by the new operator in February 2015.

He also published a detailed timetable for all rail franchise arrangements over the next eight years, following a major review after the West Coast bidding process had to be abandoned last year.

Statement from East Coast on privatisation

East Coast are inviting private companies to bid for the rail franchise Credit: East Coast

East Coast have released a statement about the planned return of the franchise to privatisation.

A full statement from an East Coast spokesperson can be read below:

"We always believed that a return of this franchise to the private sector was inevitable.

"Since we took over in 2009, we have repaid more than £640m to the taxpayer, achieved record-breaking customer satisfaction and the best performance on the route since records began in 1999.

"We are working on a plan for the next five years of the franchise which will consider some major decisions and projections for growth. This will be available to assist the future owner, whoever that is."

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