§ Mr. Hilary Benn
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) when he expects the decision on the refranchising of the East Coast main line to be taken; 
(2) what steps he is taking to investigate the reasons for the delay in the refranchising of the East Coast main line; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Jenkin
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if bidding for the East Coast main line franchise has been suspended; and if he will make a statement. 630W
§ Mr. Hill
[holding answer 26 February 2001]: On 14 February the Strategic Rail Authority announced a pause in the franchise replacement process for the East Coast main line as a result of the increased cost estimates for upgrading the line that Railtrack has now provided.
My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has asked the Chairman of the SRA, Sir Alastair Morton, to advise him urgently of the reasons for the increase in Railtrack's cost estimates and why this information has only become available at this late stage.
It would be inappropriate to speculate on any implications for the replacement process for the East Coast main line franchise until the SRA has discussed the cost estimates with Railtrack.