York's Labour candidate Hugh Bayley today renewed calls for GNER to be given the East Coast Main Line franchise.

The Evening Press Back the Bid campaign has called for the York-based train operator to be handed the vital Anglo-Scottish rail artery.

Mr Bayley has consistently backed our campaign for a swift decision by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) in favour of the award-winning York company.

In his letter to Sir Alistair Morton, chairman of the SRA, he says the East Coast Main Line is vital to York's economy, including the growing number of high-tech bioscience, technology and financial services companies, as well as the tourist trade.

He adds that GNER is an important York-based employer which provides an efficient service to the public. Passenger numbers are up by 28 per cent since it took over and it has taken on an extra 450 on-train staff, as well as increasing the number of services between York and London.

Mr Bayley said: "It is vital to get the East Coast Main Line service fully back to normal, and to start the major investment in upgrading the line as soon as possible. I have told the Strategic Rail Authority that we need more trains calling at York every day, which GNER is offering.

Alan Hyde, spokesman for GNER said: "We thank Mr Bayley for his continued support of our company and the hundreds of people who have written to us or rung us to give us the same message. "We are looking forward to a franchise decision so we can get on with the job of offering a first-class service to our passengers."

Updated: 10:54 Thursday, May 31, 2001