THE fate of the prestigious London to Scotland east-coast railway line was hanging in the balance last night as the deadline passed for the submission of bids from companies wanting to run trains on the line.
GNER, which has run trains on the East Coast Main Line since 1996, is trying to win the franchise for the next seven to ten years. The company submitted its formal bid yesterday, just ahead of the deadline, but it faces competition from three other consortia, all of which claim they could run the line more efficiently than GNER.
The Strategic Rail Authority will now consider the bids from GNER, FirstGroup; consortia involving Virgin and Stagecoach; and Danish Railways and rail freight firm EWS, with a decision due probably in February.
The winning bidder will take over the line from next May. A spokesman for GNER said the company believed it had a proven track record for quality of service and he hoped that this would be taken into account.
All the competing bids set out in detail how each bidder intends to develop services on the line, how it intends to improve reliability and modernise the rolling stock over the next ten years.
Each of those making a tender will be expected to show that they have devised proposals that minimise costs and maximise payments to the government.
GNER, which received 62 million a year in government subsidy when it won the current franchise in 1996, paid the government 22.5m last year for running services on the Scotland-London line.
Bill Furness, the chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said he was backing the GNER bid.
He said: "The future of cross-Border rail services is vital to Edinburgh’s economy and we are therefore pleased GNER is planning to commit further substantial investment to build on their customer service and reliability of train services operating on the East Coast Main Line."
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