Rail line in public hands for longer

THE East Coast rail line taken over by the Government after transport giant National Express pulled out is to stay in the public sector for longer than planned, it was announced yesterday.

The East Coast Main Line has been operated under the control of the Department for Transport since last November.

It had been hoped that it would pass back into private control by November next year.

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But Transport Minister Theresa Villiers announced yesterday that it was expected that there would be a change to this time scale owing to the review of the whole rail franchising process now being undertaken.

Ms Villiers said the on-going reletting process for two other franchises – Greater Anglia and Essex Thameside – was being scrapped. It was expected that a new competition for Greater Anglia – now run by National Express as National Express East Anglia – would be advertised by the end of the year.

Competition for Essex Thameside – being run by National Express as c2c –is expected to start in autumn 2011.

Ms Villiers said the Government would shortly begin consultation on the future of rail franchising policy, giving industry partners the chance to comment on the Government's approach and whether bidders for longer franchises would be able to offer investment in improvements to trains and services.