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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
election 2015Armando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
Life and Style
Great minds like Einstein don't think alike
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power