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2001-03-02 SRA-001
Strategic Rail Authority

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SRA approves ECML costs and announces Strategic Agenda approval


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East Coast Main Line
franchises
franchising



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Strategic Rail Authority

SRA approves ECML costs and announces Strategic Agenda approval
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related documents


2001-02-14 Railtrack cost increase forces East Coast Main Line review (Strategic Rail Authority)

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date
2 March 2001
source Strategic Rail Authority
type Press release



Two important developments affecting the future strategic direction of Britain's
railways were announced by the SRA today.

East Coast Main Line
The Strategic Rail Authority has informed Ministers, and then the two
counterparties for the Intercity East Coast franchise - Virgin/Stagecoach and
GNER - that it has satisfied itself there is no need to continue the pause in the
process of selecting the preferred counterparty for the proposed new 20-year
franchise to replace the existing short-term franchise held by GNER.

On 14 February the SRA announced the pause following receipt from
Railtrack of a range of higher cost estimates for the proposed upgrade of the
East Coast Main Line (ECML). The purpose of the pause was to allow the
SRA and its advisers to examine closely those new estimates, seeking to
reassure the SRA that the upgrade at the heart of the proposed new franchise
remained value for money.

The SRA's Chairman, Sir Alastair Morton, wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister
on Tuesday, 27 February - the day before Wednesday's tragic accident in
South Yorkshire - to report to him on the findings of that examination. He
informed Mr Prescott that the escalation of the comparable core costs of the
upgrade was less than 20%, with other costs reflecting a range of options
unlikely to be accepted by the SRA and therefore could be excluded from the
core project under consideration.

Adding in those options, said Sir Alastair, "plus fees and contingencies upon
contingencies" would appear to double last year's estimate. He cited as an
example the option to spend hundreds of millions north of Newcastle for
marginal increases in capacity to Edinburgh, together with a marginal
reduction in journey time.

Accordingly, the contest between Virgin/Stagecoach and GNER for the new
franchise is now as it was before 14 February. Early in December, the SRA,
as required under statute, requested the approval of the Deputy Prime
Minister for its confidential recommendation of a preferred counterparty.

Strategic Agenda
The Board of the Strategic Rail Authority yesterday approved the printing and
publication of the SRA's 'Strategic Agenda'. Once printed, arrangements will
be made for distribution to the media and stakeholders in Britain's railway
system.


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