RAIL operators vying to take over the York-headquartered East Coast Main Line have been invited to submit tenders for the franchise.

The Government, which currently owns the rail service, has released the invitation to tender (ITT), asking bidders to outline how they will improve passenger service, and build on investment already planned for the East Coast Main Line.

The ITT has been issued to the three shortlisted bidders, which were revealed in January. They are Inter City Railways, made up of Stagecoach Transport Holdings and Virgin Holdings; Keolis/Eurostar East Coast, made up of Keolis (UK) and Eurostar International; and East Coast Trains, which is part of First Group.

The move is the latest step in the Department for Transport’s plans to privatise the East Coast line, which has been run by the public sector since National Express East Coast pulled out of the franchise in 2009. A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The East Coast team based in York has been doing a valuable job of keeping services running while we look for a long-term private sector partner to take the franchise forward.

“While the recent Invitation to tender does not specify the location of the headquarters, we would expect bidders to take this into account when coming up with competitive bids that provide value for money for the taxpayer.”

Although not specifying a headquarters location the ITT does list a number of features including the continuation of services to all current destinations, and supporting the roll out of a new fleet of intercity express trains. It also gives bidders the chance to serve five new routes including Huddersfield, Scarborough, Harrogate, Middlesbrough and Sunderland.