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Wednesday March 27, 2013

Britain rail shake-up


Department of Transport sets out plan for rail franchise

The Department of Transport will immediately start the competition for the East Coast service, which has been in state hands since 2009. – EPA The Department of Transport will immediately start the competition for the East Coast service, which has been in state hands since 2009. – EPA

LONDON: Britain has announced a shake-up of rail concessions, returning one service to private hands and announcing dates for other sales as it tries to get the process back on track after a botched franchise award last year.

Britain's Department of Transport said it would immediately start the competition for the East Coast service, which has been in state hands since 2009, and gave a schedule for the others, with the West Coast line franchise up for grabs from April 2017.

The Conservative-led government was forced to tear up its award of the West Coast concession last October after flaws emerged in the bidding process, the latest embarrassment for Britain's troubled privatised railways.

Virgin Trains, a venture between Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Stagecoach, has been running the service since 1997. After the award debacle, it was asked by the government to continue to manage the contract to November 2014.

A Virgin spokesman said the timetable announced yesterday meant its contract was effectively being extended, but it would now need to sit down and negotiate with the Department of Transport as it “would prefer an incentivised contract”.

Virgin also said it expected to bid for the East Coast franchise.

“We've said a number of times that we're interested. We would expect to put our hat in the ring this time around,” the spokesman said. Reuters

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