GREAT North Eastern Railway (GNER), which is battling for the prestigious East Coast mainline franchise with Virgin Stagecoach, has welcomed a report highlighting the importance of both train operator's track records in the decision-making process.

According to GNER the report from the influential rail passengers council (RPC) seemingly reinforces its reputation in the industry of improving train punctuality band reliability.

A decision is expected in the next few weeks as to who will land the new 20-year franchise on the Easy Coast line.

GNER's chief executive Christopher Garnett said: "The track record of a train operator has to be an important consideration in winning new franchises.

"This report underlines the progress GNER has made in only four years and reinforces the very positive feedback we get from passengers.

"However we are not complacent and recognise there is much more to do."

According to GNER, the RPC report shows :

l a 13 per cent drop in delays since GNER started its franchise in April 1996

l improving train reliability with more than 99 per cent of trains running, and 89 per of those trains running on time

l 89 per cent of passengers satisfied with GNER's service

l a reduction in complaints, despite a 25 per cent increase in passengers and a 25 per cent rise in services

Last month the two rivals remained confident of their bids, despite a decision by the shadow strategic rail authority (sSRA) to delay an announcement on the winner.

Great North Eastern Railway and Virgin were both told that their bids for the East Coast Main Line were "not good enough" and needed more work.

An announcement on the 20-year franchise is expected within the next few weeks, with both rivals promising to invest billions in the route between Scotland, the North-East and London.