'Today's Strategic Rail Authority announcement is good news, bringing early improvements for passengers on the East Coast Main Line. The extra trains and coaches will help relieve some of the overcrowding and provide an enhanced service to Leeds from June.'
'The system set up at privatisation placed no performance requirements on long distance operators. Today GNER becomes the first inter-city operator to contract to a new generation of performance payment and passenger charter compensation regimes. The Strategic Rail Authority will place such a requirement on other long distance franchises as they are replaced or extended.'
The SRA's Strategic Plan, published yesterday, reiterated its commitment to developing the proposed infrastructure upgrade for the East Coast Main Line. The SRA is continuing to drive this forward, working very closely with Railtrack. Commenting on the importance of maintaining this longer-term perspective Mr Byers said:
'This two year extension means passengers will not have to wait years before they see any benefits. The East Coast infrastructure upgrade is still under development and it was right not to make decisions about a long-term franchise, or the type of new trains required for the line last July. In the last six months it has become clearer what infrastructure work is required to achieve the frequent services I want to see.'
The SRA has announced a 2-year extension to GNER's current franchise, to expire on 31 March 2005. The key elements of the extension include:
an enhanced London-Leeds service from 1 June 2002;
refurbishment of existing Mark 4 and HST rolling stock with greater accessibility and toilet provision for disabled people;
lengthening of current HSTs by one coach each;
better quality stations including additional security;
upgraded recovery locomotives;
an improved payment and passenger charter compensation regimes for an intercity operator; and
driver training commitments.
The secretary of state has also consented to the SRA giving related rolling stock undertakings under section 54 of the Railways Act 1993. These will allow longer-term investment to be levered in to a short franchise extension. The secretary of state looks to GNER and the ROSCOs to negotiate the final details of their agreement maturely and on appropriate terms.