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2001-07-18 DTR-001
Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions

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East Coast Main Line franchise


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Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions

East Coast Main Line franchise
_______________________________________________________________


date
18 Jul 2001 00:00
source Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions
type Press release



Transport Secretary, Stephen Byers, today invited the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) to seek new benefits for passengers by negotiating to extend the existing GNER franchise until April 2005.

The benefits would include:

- a London-Leeds service every 30 minutes, once phase 1 of the East Coast Mainline Upgrade is complete, possibly as early as 2003, using extra trains. This would reduce overcrowding on many East Coast trains including those running North of Leeds;

- early placement of orders for a new fleet of intercity trains;

- improvements to existing rolling stock, to improve passenger comfort, reduce overcrowding and cut delays;

- early investment in station improvements, for example at Doncaster and York; and;

- a range of other potential benefits including spare locomotives to improve service reliability.

Stressing the need for early improvements for passengers, Stephen Byers said:

''I regret that the process to negotiate a new 20-year deal has not proved successful. But since Hatfield it has become clear that a lot more work has still to be done to develop this major infrastructure upgrade. The SRA believes that this could take up to two years. This means that the main benefits that would be achieved from a 20-year deal are not fully developed now.

''We will return to this when the upgrade is further advanced. But meanwhile we need to do something now for the passengers on this popular but overcrowded route. They have had a difficult time since Hatfield and deserve better. GNER has been widely commended as one of the best train operators and I hope they can work with the SRA to deliver benefits to passengers.''

Work on the further stages of the East Coast Main Line upgrade will continue to be driven forward by a project development group, lead by the SRA. It is not dependent on a new franchise being agreed. But the SRA has said that it could take up to two years to finalise the project and its costs. New rolling stock can also still be ordered in good time to take advantage of the extra capacity that the upgrade will provide.

Railtrack and the SRA plan infrastructure upgrades on the line in four phases. The upgrades are not dependent on a new franchise being agreed.

- Phase One, which is underway, involves the upgrade of Leeds Station to enable a half hourly service to Leeds;

- Phase Two, includes the remodelling of Peterborough Station, a new platform at Kings Cross and the development of alternative freight lines to provide more capacity;

- Phase Three includes two flyovers and various power and junction upgrades;

- Phase Four due for completion in 2010 would include four tracking between Hitchin and Peterborough.

Commenting on the long term, Stephen Byers commented:

''I am not ruling out a 20 year franchise for the East Coast Main Line. But circumstances have changed completely since bids were first invited for this particular franchise. The second stage of the East Coast Main Line upgrade does not yet have a finalised design or cost, and is not due for completion until 2006 at the earliest. It would have been premature for me to commit to a long-term franchise based on an infrastructure solution which has not yet been fully developed.

''The situation will be different once the upgrade project is more clearly developed and the SRA has worked up its own long term strategy. That will be the right time to take a decision.''

Notes to editors

1. The Secretary of State has decided not to give a direction under section 26(1) of the Railways Act 1993 that would permit the SRA to replace the current franchise before it expires in 2003. Without such a direction the SRA must wait until near the end of the franchise term and undertake a formal tender process.

2. Before giving a section 26(1) direction in relation to early franchise replacement, the Secretary of State will normally need to be satisfied that the benefits potentially offered by the early award of a new franchise outweigh the desirability of waiting for a formal tender process at the expiry of the franchise term.

3. In reaching his decision, the Secretary of State noted that:

- the fundamental requirement on the East Coast Main Line is for additional capacity - provided by additional rolling stock and improved infrastructure;

- the detailed specification and costing for the infrastructure works remain uncertain;

- better terms, with reduced risk to both parties and better prospect of matching benefits to demand, are likely to be achieved nearer the time at which the benefits are expected to be delivered, when the scope and costings of the infrastructure upgrade are better defined; and

- committing to a new 20-year franchise now would reduce the provision available for enhancement or extension of existing franchises, or for the award of new ones, elsewhere on the network.

4. The necessary long-term investment in this route will be provided through the infrastructure upgrade and the order of new rolling stock. On 2 April, the Deputy Prime Minister and the SRA announced that this infrastructure investment be taken forward on a joint venture basis. The Project Development Group to achieve this is already meeting. Public funding can either be provided via a future franchise agreement or direct from the SRA. A franchise holder can act as procurement agent for the necessary new rolling stock. Section 54 of the Railways Act provides the SRA with powers to enter into an agreement to back such an arrangement.

5. A franchise agreement contains provisions allowing it to be extended for up to two years by agreement between the SRA and the franchisee.



Press Enquiries: 020 7944 3066; Out of Hours: 020 7944 5925/5945 Public Enquiries Unit: 020 7944 3000; E mail: press@dtlr.gov.uk Press Notices available via DTLR Website: http://www.dtlr.gov.uk




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