Companies bidding to run trains on the East Coast Mainline will have the chance to serve five new routes, to Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Harrogate, Scarborough and Huddersfield.
The government has invited three companies to submit details bids for the rail franchise East Coast, which has been in public hands since 2009.
The invitation to tender also includes a preference for faster and more frequent services to and from King's Cross and faster average journey times to Leeds and Edinburgh, from May 2020.
Three companies have invited to submit detailed bids to run the East Coast franchise, which operates trains on the East Coast Mainline between London and Edinburgh.
- Inter City Railways Limited (Stagecoach Transport Holdings Limited and Virgin Holdings Limited)
- Keolis/Eurostar East Coast Limited (Keolis (UK) Limited and Eurostar International Limited)
- East Coast Trains Ltd (First Group plc).
The franchise has been in government hands since November 2009, when National Express gave it up, saying it could not afford to run it any more. Government plans to re-privatise the service have been subject to protests from those who feel it would be better left in public ownership.
The successful bidder is expected to be announced in November. The new franchise will start in March 2015 and run for eight years with the possibility of a one-year extension.
Campaigners against the re-privatisation of the rail company East Coast will be demonstrating along the route this morning.
Action for Rail is joining trade unions in saying the company is better off in public ownership, but the government says directly running East Coast was only a short-term plan.
The protest will be held at stations between Edinburgh and Kings Cross, including Newcastle Central and Durham. It has been timed to coincide with the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, in York.
East Coast trains has lifted all ticket restrictions for this evening as another storm closes in.
The train operator is advising passengers to travel as early as possible as forecasters predict wind speeds of up to 70 miles per hour across the North East.
East Coast is to run additional train services between the North East and London to help Sunderland fans following their team to the Capital One Cup Final against Manchester City.
Thousands of Black Cats supporters are expected to make the journey south to cheer on their team at Wembley Stadium in the Wearsiders’ first Cup Final appearance for 22 years on Sunday, 2 March.
Full details of train times and lowest fares for the extra trains are exclusively available online via the East Coast website,www.eastcoast.co.uk.
The Government has published a shortlist of three bidders under plans to re-privatise the East Coast mainline - which runs through the North East - sparking a row over whether the rail franchise should remain publicly-run.
Some of the biggest transport firms which already run rail routes across the UK are on the list of preferred bidders for the 393-mile route from London to Edinburgh.
These include First Group, Stagecoach, Virgin, Keolis and Eurostar.
Unions and other groups have been campaigning for months to halt re-privatisation of the franchise, which has been publicly-run since 2009.
One union official accused the Government of 'economic vandalism'.
Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: "Giving passengers more will be at the heart of the new East Coast franchise.
"That means new services and journeys that are faster, more punctual and more comfortable."
East Coast rail has relaxed all ticket restrictions for customers.
Severe weather caused some disruption yesterday so anyone with tickets booked to travel yesterday or today can take any train service today .
Extra staff will help passengers at East Coast stations.
The last East Coast services to run from London King's Cross today are: 1800 (for Edinburgh); 1930 (for destinations between York and Newcastle, inclusive); 2005 for Leeds.
Transport Minister Stephen Hammond and shadow secretary Mary Creagh speak as the process of privatising the East Coast Mainline begins today.
Unions have objected strongly to the proposals and more than 23,000 people signed a petition against the plans.
The process of re-privatising the East Coast Mainline begins today.
Companies will be invited to bid for the franchise to run the train service, which is currently owned by the government.
Labour argues it should remain nationalised.
Campaigners and rail unions have handed over a petition, signed by more than 23,000, calling for the main East Coast rail line to remain in public hands.
The route, which connects the North East with London and Edinburgh, has been in the public sector since 2009.
Joint protests were held in Newcastle earlier and the capital against plans to re-privatise East Coast.