U.K. Tenders East Coast Rail Line Contract as Franchising Resume

Britain’s East Coast rail route should be back in private hands within two years after the government said it would invite bids tenders for a contract that’s been run by a state-backed operator.

A competition for the line linking London with Edinburgh will commence immediately, with the expectation that the new franchisee will carry its first passenges in February, 2015, the Department for Transport said in a statement today.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced the East Coast plan as part of a revamp of U.K. rail bids over the next eight years, including a mechanism for considering passenger feedback when awarding contracts and the establishment of a Franchise Advisory Panel. The tender system had ground to a halt after complaints from Virgin Trains triggered a probe that found it had been unfairly stripped of the West Coast route.

“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,” McLoughlin said today.

Under the new timetable, the West Coast and East Coast contracts will be staggered so that they’re not up for tender at the same point in the economic cycle, the DfT said.

Franchise extensions and directly awarded contracts will also be used to realign the timetable, starting today with the government serving notice on First Capital Connect and Southeastern to call contractual six-month extensions.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Jasper at cjasper@bloomberg.net

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