To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to improve the infrastructure of the East Coast Main Line to facilitate the improvements to the train services which they have agreed with the new operator of the franchise, Virgin East Coast; and whether these plans are compatible with the outstanding applications of the “open access” operators and the known freight obligations.
The Government, as part of the Rail Investment Strategy (RIS) for CP5, provided a £240m connectivity fund for infrastructure improvements on the East Coast Main Line. The apportionment of this fund is being administered by an industry programme board and enhancements under the fund are to deliver an increase in capacity, which the new franchise plans to utilise to deliver their train service.
The new franchise will be responsible for delivering the new Intercity Express Programme (IEP) fleet of class 800 / 801 trains into service. The Government’s RIS for CP5 has specified investments of £330m on the East Coast Main Line to enable the class 800 / 801 fleet to run to a range of destinations.
Through the franchise competition, Virgin Trains East Coast was required, as part of their bid, to protect the existing level of open access and freight services. The infrastructure improvements provided by the RIS for CP5 create additional capacity. Applications to use the capacity are currently with the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) from both the InterCity East Coast franchise and an open access operator. A decision on these applications is expected from the ORR in due course. Any decision on future aspirations for additional open access or freight services will taken by the ORR.