The UK Government has shortlisted three bidders to submit their proposals to deliver improved services for passengers on the Intercity East Coast rail franchise.
The companies that successfully passed the pre-qualification evaluation stage include East Coast Trains (First Group), Keolis and Eurostar East Coast (Keolis UK and Eurostar International) and Inter City Railways (Stagecoach Transport Holdings and Virgin Holdings).
The bidders can now focus on developing their plans for the franchise based on the areas set out in the InterCity East Coast prospectus. The invitation to tender is expected to be issued by the DfT at the end of February.
UK Rail minister Stephen Hammond said: "Giving passengers more will be at the heart of the new East Coast franchise. That means new services and journeys that are faster, more punctual and more comfortable. When these companies are developing their proposals they should be looking at ways to innovate and grow the service.
"We have embarked on one of the biggest programmes of rail investment ever, with over £35bn being spent to enhance and run our rail network over the next five years. But for our railways to continue to grow we need strong private sector partners who can invest and innovate in ways that deliver a world class service."
The new services are expected to start in February 2015.
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East Coast is an electrified 393 mile (632km) railway link between London, Peterborough, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh, UK.
The services are used for business travel, between Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Leeds and London. It is also meets the leisure and commuter travel requirements, between Newark, Grantham, Peterborough and London.
Image: East Coast is a 632km electrified railway link between London, Peterborough, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh, UK. Photo: courtesy of DfT.