Leeds-London rail line 'won't be privatised until 2012'

The Leeds to London East Coast Mainline will not be privatised for another two years, it has been revealed.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond told MPs that the Government plans to give the green light to a new 15-year private franchise in "late 2012".

The line was re-nationalised by the former Labour Government following the dramatic collapse of the franchise in the summer of 2009.

In 2007 National Express won the franchise and agreed to pay the Government 1.4bn to run the line, between Edinburgh and London via Leeds, until 2015.

But the firm walked away from the loss-making route after failing to alter the terms of its franchise agreement.

Some MPs have called for the line to remain in public ownership but both the previous and current Governments pledged to privatise it again.

Mr Hammond yesterday said the entire rail network would undergo a "radical shake-up", which would reduce running costs by up to 1bn a year.

He said the TransPennine Express franchise could be extended by up to five years beyond 2012.

Alternatively, it could be put out to tender as a new 15-year franchise, possibly in 2013 alongside the Northern franchise.

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