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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 13:21 GMT
High-speed GNER trains scrapped
High speed train
GNER will lease two high speed Eurostar trains
GNER's East Coast line between London and Scotland will no longer get a new fleet of high-speed trains as part of a new franchise deal.

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers has announced that the existing fleet of intercity trains will instead be refurbished, as part of a two-year franchise extension for the train operator GNER.

The decision not to buy new trains reverses a promise made by Mr Byers last July, that there would be an early order for a new fleet, expected to number 25 trains and cost around 550m.

But passengers have been promised 100m in improvements as part of a new franchise deal, extending the existing seven-year term by two years to April 2005.

Upgrades will not be completed for some years and the two-year extension comes after lengthy negotiations for a 20-year franchise proved unsuccessful.

Existing trains

GNER warned last summer that banks would be very unlikely to finance new rolling stock for a train company with a franchise lasting only until 2005.

The Department of Transport maintains it was not the right time to buy a new fleet, because plans to modernise the East Coast main line infrastructure were still under development.

The decision means the existing trains could well remain in service for another 10 years.

GNER has also promised to lease two more Eurostar trains for London Leeds services.

Additional services

And managers are promising more services, longer and more reliable trains and modernised stations.

A planned 11 additional services between London and Leeds will be accompanied by improved performance, compensation and customer satisfaction regimes.

More than 16m will be contributed to infrastructure improvements with an additional 10m for station and passenger information improvements.

The company will also commit more than 50m to rolling stock, including six new recovery locomotives.

"This extra investment and security of tenure brings some welcome certainty for communities along the East Coast line and for GNER's 3,000 people," said GNER chief executive Christopher Garnett.

'Real difference'

Strategic Rail Authority chairman Richard Bowker said: "This deal requires no extra subsidy and is being funded entirely within the private sector.

"The improvements agreed for delivery over the next three years will make a real difference to passengers along the whole of GNER's route - with more comfortable, more reliable, more frequent and more spacious trains."

He went on: "This is the second piece of good news for passengers on this route, following the publication of our strategic plan on Monday, which confirmed that the SRA is prioritising the upgrade of the East Coast line to provide a major increase in its capacity."

Under the new deal, passengers will, from April 2003, get a 50% single trip refund for delays of 45 minutes or more and a 100% single trip refund if trains are more than 90 minutes late.

Also for the first time, season ticket holders will also be able to claim for each journey delayed, in addition to existing compensation provision.

Trains lengthened

The additional Leeds services will start from June this year and 10 million worth of station improvements will be finished by the end of 2003.

All high-speed trains will be lengthened and improved by the end of 2003, with the improvements including better seats, catering facilities and toilets.

The refurbishment of all Intercity 225 carriages will be completed by April 2005.

Improved performance targets will mean GNER will have to run at least 81% of trains on time from April 2003 and 83% from April 2004.

The investment package includes 20 million to improve the reliability of the electric locomotives.

See also:

10 Aug 01 | Business
GNER profits surge despite delays
19 Jul 01 | UK
Rail delays hit main line
18 Jul 01 | Scotland
Rethink on east coast rail franchise
12 Jul 01 | UK
Tilting trains hit trouble
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