PLANS to return the East Coast Main Line route to the private sector are moving forward.
Since 2009, the service, which operates between the North East, London and Scotland, has been run on behalf of the Department for Transport after National Express pulled out of the franchise.
A new franchise, run privately, will operate from December 2013 and a consultation has now been launched by Rail Minister Theresa Villiers.
She said: “The next franchise will be up to 12 years in length, giving the operator greater opportunities to invest in improvements that will benefit passengers.
“The consultation outlines what we expect the next operator to deliver.”
She added: “Bidders will need to share with us their plans to improve the passenger experience.”
But Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: “This consultation is wholly bogus and totally loaded towards knocking the crucial East Coast route down to another bunch of private sector chancers on a 12-year franchise.”