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InterCity East Coast Franchise

Volume 457: debated on Thursday 8 March 2007

I am today announcing that we have issued bidders for the InterCity East Coast Mainline franchise with an Invitation to Tender (ITT). The shortlist of the four organisations who will receive an ITT was announced to the Stock Exchange on 20 February 2007.

A copy of the Stakeholder Briefing Document, which gives a synopsis of the ITT, has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and is available on the Department for Transport website at www.dft.gov.uk.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced to Parliament on 18 December 2006 that we had started a competition to find an operator to run train services on the East Coast Main Line from London to the North East and Scotland. Until the conclusion of that competition, it has been agreed that ONER will continue to operate services on the Department's behalf under a temporary management contract.

The ITT has been informed by a public consultation that closed on 15 February 2007. The objectives for the new franchise include the requirement to meet current and future passenger demand and facilitate increases in capacity.

We have stipulated that all bidders demonstrate that they will deliver value for money for both passengers and taxpayers and improve services for current and future rail users. Bidders must provide the minimum service levels the ITT sets out and can propose additional services and enhancements, subject to any operational and affordability constraints.

Current service levels will be maintained, with additional Leeds half-hourly services that will commence in May 2007 included. Bidders will also be required to reflect the emerging recommendations of the East Coast Route Utilisation Strategy, which will be published by Network Rail.

We expect bidders to consider the level of rolling stock used on the franchise and how they might provide additional capacity. Bidders have been asked to price the trialling of pre-series InterCity Express Trains, which will replace the current fleet of High Speed Trains, should a fleet become operational from Summer 2012.

Performance will be contracted to improve, and faster journey times, particularly on longer distance journeys, delivered. We expect improvements in safety, security and accessibility at stations to be put in place.

Fares will be set in a manner consistent with current Government policy. The winner of the franchise competition will put in place an interoperable smart ticketing system across the franchise area by January 2010.