Latest Rail News

25.10.13

East Coast ‘privatisation’ process to begin

An official notice is due to be published in the OJEU today for the East Coast franchise, the Government has announced, marking the beginning of the end of the route’s period in public hands. 

East Coast has “stabilised” under public ownership, the Government says – but it has insisted that its operation by state-owned Directly Operated Railways (DOR) was never planned to be permanent.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “We want to see a revitalised East Coast railway, one that both rekindles the spirit of competition for customers on this great route to Scotland and competes with the West Coast on speed, quality and customer service.

“We need a strong partner to ensure we successfully deliver the £240m programme of infrastructure investments on the route and the improvements in rolling stock that the multi-billion Intercity Express Programme will provide. “

The DfT has published a series of documents, including the InterCity East Coast prospectus, which details what potential bidders for the franchise should consider. These include a focus on improved customer experience, opportunities for investment, environmental improvements and involving communities in local decision making.

Specific commitments include the replacement of current rolling stock and major infrastructure improvements to the line around Peterborough and £20m enhancements to Doncaster station.

Shortlisted bidders will be published in January, with franchise services starting in February 2015.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Government has completely lost the plot over its handling of our railways. Since returning to public ownership the East Coast Main Line has flourished, with rising customer satisfaction levels and £800m returned to the UK taxpayer.”

Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh said: “East Coast is working well and will have returned £800m to the taxpayer by the end of this financial year.

“This Government has learned nothing from the West Coast franchising fiasco, which saw over £50m of taxpayers' money wasted in compensation to train companies, through ministers' incompetence.”

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

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