Originally operated by the Great North Eastern Railway (GNER), it was then operated by National Express East Coast, East Coast and Virgin Trains East Coast. In June 2018, the franchise ended and trains and stations were returned to public ownership; Since then, services have been provided by the London North Eastern Railway (LNER), a Department of Transport company. The Minister of Transport is threatened with legal action if companies operating main east coast trains are allowed to bid on future contracts. The expected growth in passenger numbers has not materialized and Stagecoach has requested a rescue by the government. The company acknowledged that it had been overpaid for the franchise, but said delays in network Rail`s infrastructure upgrade and delivery of new Azuma trains were partly responsible. 2. In reviewing investment projects in rail and infrastructure companies, the AES must ensure that all proposed investments are in line with the Ministry of Transport`s 10-year transportation plan and the instructions and guidelines for the AES. This is particularly the case, since the SRA is fully responsible for the financing by the PTEs of the purchase of franchised rail services. In January 2014, FirstGroup, Keolis/Eurostar International Limited (EIL) and Stagecoach/Virgin were announced as the shortlisted candidates for the new franchise.   In November 2014, the franchise was awarded to Stagecoach/Virgin which, as Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), began operating the franchise on March 1, 2015.
   Ministry of Transport press release: “More seating, more services and new trains for passengers on the east coast,” November 27, 2014; Department for Transport, East Coast 2014 Rail Franchise Agreement, June 2015 Grayling replied: “When we end this franchise and move on to new agreements, no one gets a rescue at all. Stagecoach will fully fulfill its obligations to the government under this contract. Calendar 5.2a amended in the franchise agreement and added a new clause 5.2 (c). 1. SRAs and PTEs, as co-signers of relevant franchise agreements, often meet to discuss issues relevant to the management and development of franchise services activities. This practice will be continued and developed as part of the next replacement franchise, including the annual review of service commitments. This is a process in which the ASA will determine, in consultation with other stakeholders, including PTEs, the level and extent of future service levels, including consideration of corrective actions to achieve future demand and performance targets.