East Coast franchise shortlist announced

The British government has released the names of three bidders who will be invited to submit proposals to operate the InterCity East Coast franchise from 2015.

First Group is the only standalone company to pass the pre-qualification stage, with Keolis/Eurostar and Stagecoach/Virgin joint ventures also through to the next stage of the competition.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said potential operators will need to “consider how they intend to use the latest high-tech trains, built in the UK by Agility, to deliver more passengers to more of the UK’s biggest cities faster and in greater comfort”.

Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: “Giving passengers more will be at the heart of the new East Coast franchise. That means new services and journeys that are faster, more punctual and more comfortable. When these companies are developing their proposals they should be looking at ways to innovate and grow the service.”

Revealing the shortlist, the DfT said it planned to issue the invitation to tender by the end of February at which point the operators will have three months to submit their bids.

East Coast services have been operated by the government’s Directly Operated Railways since 2009, following the withdrawal of National Express.