By Oliver Farrimond
VIRGIN Trains revealed yesterday that they plan to bid to take over running the East Coast Main Line between Edinburgh and London.
The group – which already runs the West Coast Main Line – wasted no time throwing their hat in the ring after Transport Secretary Lord Adonis announced that the recently nationalised service would be opened up to private bidders sometime next year.
If successful they would be expected to include a time-saving ‘Flying Scotsman’ service – he unveiled plans for slashing journey times between the two capitals to under four hours.
Speaking just moments after his announcement, a spokesman for Virgin Trains confirmed: “Yes, we’d certainly be interested in bidding for East Coast services.”
“We’ll wait and see what the fine details of the government’s proposal are, but it’s definitely something we’d like to be involved in.
“We’ve got out west coast services at the moment, and we’d certainly look at the east coast line once we’ve studied the details.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport would not comment on individual bids, but said that they would welcome any potential operator’s involvement.
As part of their proposals, bidders for the service will have to outline how they will provide on-board catering, improved facilities at stations and a simple ticket pricing system.
The Transport Secretary’s announcement includes plans for faster and more frequent rail journeys between London and Scotland’s Capital.
From May 2011, Lord Adonis has asked Network Rail and train operators to run 10 per cent more trains between London King’s Cross and Scotland – as well as setting up a new extra-fast service running from Edinburgh and London in less than four hours within two years.
Lord Adonis said: “The East Coast Mine Line is one of Britain’s most important rail routes.
“It is vital to connecting cities in Scotland and the North of England to London and deserves the best possible service.
“This new timetable is a big improvement for passengers – journey times will come down and there will be more frequent services.
“I am also setting out improvements which operators interested in running the East Coast Main Line will need to consider when drawing up their bids to replace the nationalised East Coast Company in 2011.
“As well as quicker and more frequent trains, I want to see better stations, improved catering and simpler ticketing.”
A spokesperson for National Express could not be reached for comment.
But it is not likely any bid they may make will be warmly received by the Department of Transport, after Lord Adonis stripped the group of their East Anglia franchise three years early in November of last year.
The Secretary of State took the tough approach despite National Express hitting performance targets to ensure a renewal of their East Anglian service.