The British Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a competition to find a new private-sector operator for the 632km East Coast mainline, which links London, Peterborough, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
The new operator, which will offer train services on the line from 2015, is expected to upgrade the existing train fleet and continue to support Â£72m programme to improve the line around Peterborough and Â£20m enhancements to Doncaster station.
In addition, the new operator is expected to capitalise on the significant government investment on the line over the next six years, including replacement of the existing rolling stock fleet.
UK Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that the DfT needs a strong partner to deliver the Â£240m programme of infrastructure investments on the line and the improvements in rolling stock that the multi-billion Intercity Express Programme will provide.
“We want to see a revitalised East Coast railway, one that both rekindles the spirit of competition for customers on this great route to Scotland and competes with the West Coast on speed, quality and customer service,” McLoughlin said.
Directly Operated Railways has been operating services on the line since 2009, after the withdrawal of National Express.
DfT is planning to publish a list of bidders in January 2014 and issue the invitation to tender (ITT) in February. The shortlisted bidders will be provided with three months of time to prepare bids.
The services meet demand for business travel between Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Leeds and London, as well as from leisure travel to several destinations.
Last month, DfT published ITTs for Essex Thameside and Thameslink Southern Great Northern.