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Virgin rules out tilting trains for ECML

VIRGIN THIS WEEK ruled out using tilting trains on the East Coast Main Line, claiming the route is too straight to need them.

Instead it plans to knock £1bn off project costs by upgrading existing trains and then phasing in new high speed train sets.

Virgin announced its plans when it resubmitted its bid for the ECML franchise on Monday.

Virgin and current ECML operator GNER are competing to be named preferred bidder for the new ECML franchise later this month.

Bids have to include plans to upgrade the existing line and proposals for building a new, dedicated, high speed line. The shadow Strategic Train Authority is expected to decide on the feasibility of a dedicated line next year.

GNER has not substantially changed its original bid, submitted in May (NCE 11 May). Its proposals include the phasing in of 225km/h tilting trains by 2007.

Virgin's bid involves a total of £7.5bn of spending, including £1.7bn of infrastructure spending, from Railtrack. Of the Virgin figure, £1.2bn will go on rolling stock and £4.5bn is earmarked for construction of 198km of dedicated high speed track.

Virgin, working with project manager Bechtel, still believes it is possible to build its high speed line by 2009.

The bids follow an original submission by Virgin in May, proposing a dedicated high speed line. SSRA chairman Sir Alistair Morton backed the bid but ruled it insufficient to win the ECML franchise. He did not believe the scheme could be built in time to relieve capacity pressure.

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