ON AUGUST 14 the UK Department for Transport announced that National Express Group had been selected to operate the InterCity East Coast franchise, which runs to March 31 2015.

From December 9 NEG will take over from GNER, which agreed last December to hand back its 10-year franchise after just 18 months as a result of financial problems at its parent Sea Containers.

Net Present Value of the total premium to be paid by NEG is £1·4bn, compared with £1·3bn for the failed GNER franchise. The premium profile released by DfT shows a steep rise in annual payments once an income protection agreement takes effect after Year 4.

NEG plans to increase capacity to earn additional passenger revenue; there is provision in the new franchise for up to 25 extra services each weekday from December 2010, subject to continuing work with Network Rail and ORR to identify additional paths on the busy East Coast Main Line. Up to 40 extra coaches will be added to the ICEC fleet, by reinstating stored Mk III vehicles made redundant by the arrival of the Virgin Pendolinos on the West Coast Main Line.

New services will include a direct London – Lincoln train at two-hourly intervals and a two-hourly London – York semi-fast service, allowing long-distance trains to be accelerated by reducing intermediate stops. The fastest journey times from London will be cut to 2 h for Leeds and 1 h 45 min for York, while more services will cover London – Edinburgh in 4 h 20 min.