On Friday (21 March 2014) I published the invitation to tender (ITT) for the InterCity East Coast franchise. This marks the next step in the formal competition to find a new private sector partner to run passenger rail services on the East Coast Main Line.
I have also published the ‘InterCity East Coast stakeholder briefing document’, which provides an update to the InterCity East Coast consultation summary report published in October 2013.
The ITT asks bidders to set out detailed proposals on what improvements for passengers they will deliver and how they will build on the multi-billion pound investment planned for the East Coast Main Line and should they win the franchise. The invitation to tender includes:
- the requirement to introduce the new world class fleet of trains from the InterCity Express programme
- continuation of services to all current destinations
- faster, more frequent services to and from King’s Cross by May 2020
- faster average journey times to Leeds and Edinburgh from May 2020
- the potential for improved services to destinations such as Lincoln
- an opportunity for bidders to serve 5 new routes including Huddersfield, Scarborough, Harrogate (via York), Middlesbrough and Sunderland (via Newcastle)
- a fund that will drive innovation for passengers and deliver long term benefits for the franchise and wider rail industry
It is anticipated that the successful bidder will be announced in November and that the new franchise will start in March 2015 and run for 8 years and 4 weeks, with a possible one year extension callable at my sole discretion.
Services along the East Coast Main Line are set to be transformed over the coming years through £240 million worth of investment which will improve reliability and boost capacity for passengers and freight. The route will also benefit from the government’s £5.8 billion Intercity Express programme, which is set to deliver a new fleet of state-of-the-art trains which will improve journey times and deliver a boost to the customer experience.