MINISTERS have pledged to announce the winner of the drawn-out battle for the East Coast Mainline franchise within two weeks.

Last week, Transport Secretary Stephen Byers insisted he was still weighing up the submissions from GNER and Virgin.

Parliament is due to rise for the summer recess on July 20 - prompting concern an announcement would not be made before then.

Ryedale MP John Greenway and York MP Hugh Bayley have both urged the Government to make an announcement as early as possible.

Mr Byers said: "The important point is that submissions from both bidders are given proper and due consideration, and that is happening at the moment.

"I do not intend to rush and make the wrong decision, but I am aware the award of the franchise is keenly awaited by many travellers throughout the country."

Updated: 12:03 Tuesday, July 10, 2001