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Virgin 'Likely' to Bid For New East Coast Franchise


7:33am 26th March 2013
(Updated 10:46am 26th March 2013)

Bidding has opened for a new company to run the East Coast mainline.

The government currently runs services on the East Coast intercity line, which runs through York.

A new way of handling franchises has been announced this morning after problems with the bidding process on the West Coast mainline.

York Central MP Hugh Bayley wants the public sector company currently running the line to be allowed to bid for the franchise but current laws do not allow them to do so.

A Department for Transport Spokesman said:

“The Government remains committed to ensuring Britain continues to benefit from private sector innovation, operational experience and investment in its railways. For this reason we are committed to running a competition for the East Coast rail franchise.”

Cllr James Alexander, Leader of City of York Council said: "Whilst I am disappointed that the East Coast Mainline (ECML) franchise will be privatised, I'm confident that local authorities across the ECML will continue to work with government; to ensure that we take lessons learned from the west coast franchise process and to use knowledge gained to maintain influence for our residents benefit. The East Coast Mainline Authorities (ECMA) group, established for this reason, will be meeting with DfT and Network Rail in the coming weeks, to build on our initial and positive discussions with ministers to ensure greater involvement of ECML local authorities throughout this process."

Virgin Trains says it's likely to go for the franchise and said in a statement:


"We welcome the Government's fresh plans to base the award of future franchises on measures such as improved customer service, innovation and planned investment."



"Virgin Trains has striven to deliver all of this over the last 16 years - resulting in record-breaking 92per cent customer satisfaction and the strongest growth of any long-distance company."



"We will continue to do this for the remainder of the West Coast franchise and look forward to bidding for the chance to deliver similar improvements on East Coast."

But current operator East Coast says it has no plans to apply.

An East Coast spokesman said: "We always believed that a return of this franchise to the private sector was inevitable.

"Since we took over in 2009, we have repaid more than £640m to the taxpayer, achieved record-breaking customer satisfaction and the best performance on the route since records began in 1999.

"We are working on a plan for the next five years of the franchise which will consider some major decisions and projections for growth. This will be available to assist the future owner, whoever that is."


Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

"This programme is a major step in delivering tangible improvements to services, providing long-term certainty to the market and supporting our huge programme of rail investment. Above all, in future franchise competitions we are placing passengers in the driving seat by ensuring that their views and satisfaction levels are taken into account when deciding which companies run our railway services."

"Franchising has been a force for good in the story of Britain’s railways, transforming an industry that was in decline into one that today carries record numbers of passengers."

Richard Brown, Chairman of the newly formed Franchise Advisory Panel, said:

"I am pleased to see that government has engaged with my recommendations. It is clear to me that this announcement represents an opportunity for government to seek competitive and innovative proposals from the existing Train Operating Companies and potential new market entrants to demonstrate how they will continue to improve services for passengers."

"The clarity around the franchise programme will also allow fresh energy to be brought to the urgent task of developing closer partnerships with Network Rail to drive out costs from the industry and provide a better deal for passengers and taxpayers."

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