Upgraded InterCity train plan on hold until after the election

Finance troubles are complicating the deal, Transport Secretary says

Plans to replace Britain's ageing InterCity trains are being postponed until after the general election, the Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, said yesterday.

Despite the choice of Agility Trains as the preferred bidder for the multi-billion-pound, 30-year InterCity Express programme this month, financing complications have slowed progress to such an extent that the deal must now wait for the next parliament. Lord Adonis said: "Over the course of the procurement there has been a reduction in the capacity of the debt market to support the transaction as originally envisaged, and passenger growth has also slowed."

The Government's recent commitment to electrify the Great Western main line from 2016 also needs to be factored into the investment plans, he said.

The complications mean the deal could not be completed before the middle of March, leaving too little time before the election. "The negotiations are for a contract of nearly 30 years, a multibillion-pound spend over the course of many parliaments," Lord Adonis said. "In all the circumstances, the Government does not believe it would be appropriate to enter into this particular contract in the immediate run-up to a general election."

Instead, the Government is commissioning the former Audit Commission controller Sir Andrew Foster to undertake an independent assessment of the credibility and value for money of the proposed scheme, which will buy 125 new trains for the Great Western and East Coast main lines. Sir Andrew will report back within three months, and both his conclusions and the Government's response will be published.

If the assessment confirms that the current plan is "better than the alternatives", the project will proceed in the next parliament, Lord Adonis said. "The existing rolling stock dates back to the 1970s and needs to be replaced," he said.

Agility Trains – which is a consortium of John Laing, Hitachi and Barclays – expressed "disappointment" at the delay yesterday, but confirmed its commitment to the deal. "We will continue our ambitious planning for production and maintenance facilities in the UK to support the programme, in anticipation of concluding the contract under the next parliament," the consortium said.

Rail industry representatives are pushing for greater involvement by train companies to improve the scheme. "The best way to get value for money would be to give train companies a greater role in buying their own rolling stock," Michael Roberts, the chief executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc), said yesterday. "This would get things done quicker and cheaper, ensure that the right rolling stock gets to the right places at the right time and give passengers and taxpayers the best deal."

If the Intercity Express programme goes ahead on schedule, the first of the next-generation trains will run on the East Coast main line from 2013. The new trains will be between 15 and 40 per cent lighter than those they replace, consuming less fuel and adding an extra one million seats per year to the East Coast line alone. Agility Trains is to spend 70 per cent of the contract value in the UK, and expects the programme to create 2,500 skilled engineering jobs as well as securing up to 12,500 more in local supply and services industries.

Full steam ahead? Looming decisions

*Franchises: Not only is the East Coast contract handed back by National Express still up for grabs, but the whole structure of franchise deals is under review after calls for longer contracts to boost investment.

*Electrification: In July, the Government agreed to the £1.1bn electrification of the Great Western main line. But the industry is pushing for more, including the full electrification of the Midland main line.

*High Speed Rail: The Government's HS2 company will report next month on plans to link London with the Midlands. The Tories support the concept of a second line, although not necessarily as proposed. Network Rail also has its own ideas, and is touting a £34bn plan to link London to Scotland.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
news

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Sales Executive

£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week