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17.01.14

East Coast franchise bidders announced

The government has announced the shortlisted bidders for the East Coast franchise.

East Coast Trains Ltd (First Group plc), Keolis/Eurostar East Coast Limited (Keolis (UK) Limited and Eurostar International Limited), and Inter City Railways Limited (Stagecoach Transport Holdings Limited and Virgin Holdings Limited)  will be issued invitations to tender at the end of February.

The new East Coast franchise begins in February 2015. The route has been run by state-owned Directly Operated Railways (DOR) since 2009, but the DfT made clear that this was a temporary measure.

The bidders must now set out how they intend to use the new IEP rolling stock, to be built by the Agility consortium of Hitachi and John Laing, and capitalise on £240m investment in infrastructure projects along the route over the next five years.

Factors they must include are ways to deliver an innovative timetable, to improve customer experience, identify further opportunities for investment, make operations more considerate of the environment, include communities in local decision-making, and demonstrate how they will support economic growth.

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. When these companies are developing their proposals they should be looking at ways to innovate and grow the service.

“We have embarked on one of the biggest programmes of rail investment ever, with over £35 billion being spent to enhance and run our rail network over the next five years. But for our railways to continue to grow we need strong private sector partners who can invest and innovate in ways that deliver a world class service.”

On the privatisation of the line, the government stated: “While the East Coast franchise has been stabilised under government ownership since 2009, the route now needs a long term private sector operator to plan for the future and meet the increasing demands for more trains serving even more destinations.”

 Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “This marks a further important step in bringing private sector innovation and investment back to what is a crucial part of the railway for Britain’s economy."

Vernon Barker, FirstGroup’s managing director, UK Rail said: “We have extensive experience of intercity services and have a strong track record in delivering passenger growth as well as capacity and infrastructure upgrades on the long distance franchises we run – First Great Western, First ScotRail and First TransPennine Express.

“We look forward to reviewing the contract details and submitting an innovative, compelling, and value for money bid which meets the needs of taxpayers as well as customers and businesses along the East Coast route.”

Alistair Gordon, CEO, Keolis UK, said: “We are pleased to be shortlisted for one the most important rail franchises in the country and we see this as a testament to the strength and quality of Keolis’ and Eurostar’s credentials both here in the UK and internationally.

“We will now concentrate on ensuring we deliver a robust bid that will detail a clear step change in the passenger experience and a renewed network for the long term benefit of UK rail.”

And Nicolas Petrovic, chief executive of Eurostar, said: “The East Coast franchise represents an important opportunity for future growth and investment. Over the coming months we will draw on our collective skills and expertise to present a compelling bid for this vital economic artery and key route.”

But RMT general secretary Bob Crow warned that re-privatising the line was "a reckless exercise". He said: "The publicly owned East Coast is Britain's most successful rail operation carrying more passengers per mile, more efficiently and with the highest levels of passenger satisfaction and handing over £200m a year back to the taxpayers while comparable private train companies rob us blind. That is what the government are out to destroy."

Keolis, which is majority-owned by France’s state-owned railway company SNCF, is involved in four UK franchises currently: Southeastern, Southern and London Midland via its 35% stake in Govia with Go-Ahead, and First TransPennine Express via its 45% stake in FirstKeolis.

Stagecoach and Virgin jointly run West Coast Main Line services.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

John   17/01/2014 at 11:56

I'd like to see someone new to the party as the same old Bus Company crew that are running the other franchises are poor at the job they deliver at best. This is one of the most important routes and we need to be sure that it will work properly and not be another bodge job as National Express did - as the other Bus Companies do!!

Nonsuchmike   17/01/2014 at 16:50

I really thought that privatisation this time (as opposed to during the 19th and early 20th century) would benefit both railways and rail users alike. I was wrong - the companies still took massive profits for dividends - same old, same old! Then the NFP DOR took over the ECML and showed that a railway could be run efficiently, not herd people like cattle, run on time, keep employing good staff AND make a profit which was handed back to the public purse. My question is simple: why change from that model?

Mikeyb   18/01/2014 at 20:11

I was under the impression that the East Coast franchise was to be "returned to the private sector." So why include Keolis/Eurostar - two companies that are practically state-owned by UK and European governments? Has there been a sudden change of heart in Whitehall, with civil servants now saying that state-owned railways are better that the private bus companies that have been involved in or railways since privatisation?

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