The race to get the best rail services for passengers between London and Scotland officially got underway today, Friday 25 October 2013.
The publication of a series of procurement documents by the Department for Transport (DfT) marks the first step in that search for a new private sector partner to help revolutionise services on the East Coast Mainline.
The InterCity East Coast prospectus details what potential bidders will need to consider when they start developing their proposals next year. These include:
- developing innovative timetables which build on the core train service requirement published by the DfT;
- investment in innovative ways to transform the customer experience on trains and at stations;
- identifying further opportunities for investment along the route, particularly at stations;
- making the route and train operations more sensitive to the environment;
- involving communities along the route in local decision making; and
- demonstrating how their proposals will support economic growth along the route.
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 £240 million programme of infrastructure investments on the route and the improvements in rolling stock that the multi-billion Intercity Express Programme will provide.
Since 2009, the East Coast franchise has been stabilised under government ownership, but management by Directly Operated Railways was never planned to be a permanent arrangement.
The government believes a strong private sector partner, as an innovator and investor, will build on this stable basis and deliver a world-class railway for passengers and best value for the taxpayer.
It expects the new partner will capitalise on the significant government investment in this route over the next 6 years, including the replacement of the current rolling stock fleet, and major infrastructure improvements such as the £72 million programme to improve the line around Peterborough and £20 million enhancements to Doncaster station.
As part of the refranchising process a series of documents are being published, including an ‘OJEU Notice’, the ‘Pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ)’, the ‘Prequalification process document (PPD)’, the ‘Prospectus’, and the results of the East Coast consultation which asked passengers what they would like to see in the new franchise.
The prospectus describes the East Coast business as it stands today (25 October 2013) and the risks and responsibilities bidders will need to consider when preparing their bid. It also gives an insight as to what the DfT expects to see when prospective bidders are given the invitation to tender (ITT), which will ask them to set out their detailed proposals on what they will deliver for passengers.
The DfT plans to confirm which prospective bidders have passed the pre-qualification stage in January. The DfT expects to issue the ITT in February. The shortlisted bidders will then have 3 months to prepare bids, with franchise services starting in February 2015.
East Coast is one of the 2 main London-to-Scotland railways providing frequent services. It is an electrified 393 miles (632 kilometres) railway link between London, Peterborough, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
It is one of the fastest conventional lines in the UK with most of the line being cleared for 125 miles per hour (200 kilometres per hour) operation. Non-electrified line extends further north into Scotland from Edinburgh to Inverness and Aberdeen. The services meet demand for business travel, particularly between Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Leeds and London, leisure travel to a variety of destinations and commuter journeys, primarily between Newark, Grantham, Peterborough and London.
The launch of the East Coast competition is another milestone in the government’s refranchising programme and it follows the on time successful publication of the ITTs for Essex Thameside and Thameslink Southern Great Northern last month.
Details of the published documents are available.