To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) at what point in the franchising process a comparison of the costs of the preferred bidders against those of British Rail is to be considered for each of the first three train operating companies; (2) if he will publish the comparative costs of services under
(a) the preferred bidder and (b) British Rail for the first three train operating companies to be franchised; 
(3) if he will make a statement on the costs using the preferred bidder for each of the first three train operating companies, relative to the costs of continuing the service under British Rail. 
[holding answer 8 December 1995]: Until franchise negotiations are complete information about the preferred bids is commercially confidential. The franchising director will award franchises to the bidders that offer the best overall value for money in terms of services for passengers and costs to taxpayers. He makes comparisons of the costs of preferred bidders against those of British Rail throughout the bidding process as these are an essential component of his value-for-money judgement.For the funding of the British Rail train operating companies in 1995–96, I refer the hon. Member to my answer on 13 July to the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish),
Official Report, column 706. I will write to the hon. Member shortly on the level of support appropriate to each train operating company that has been agreed between the franchising director and the British Railways Board, and will place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.
The franchising director expects to publish subsidy figures for the first three franchisees in the franchising director's register in due course; although, under section 73 of the Railways Act 1993, information may be withheld at the discretion of the Secretary of State or the franchising director if disclosure would be against the public interest or the commercial interests of franchisees.