The Intercity Express programme was initiated in 2007 to replace Britain's ageing fleet of Inter-city 125 diesel trains as well as to invest in capacity and passenger journey improvements on the East Coast and Great Western Main Lines. In 2009 a contract, potentially worth £7.5 billion, was agreed with Agility Trains, a consortium of Hitachi, John Laing and Barclays Bank, to supply up to 1400 vehicles during a 20-year period. The 200km/h Super Express Trains proposed by Agility would be produced in electric, bi-mode and diesel versions and designed to increase capacity compared with the existing fleet.
Adonis, however, cites a reduction in the capacity of the debt market and a slowing of passenger growth as the reasons for delaying the project which would be one of the most expensive single railway contracts ever to be awarded. He says a key objection of the programme is to achieve value for money across the lifetime of the trains and, as a result, has asked for an independent assessment to evaluate the programme's value as well as the cost of any possible alternatives. Sir Andrew Foster, former controller of the Audit Commission, will conduct the independent assessment to provide the next parliament with up-to-date information before a decision on whether to proceed is made.
"It is critical for rail passengers that the right long-term decision is made about the next generation of inter-city trains, which will have a lifespan of 30 years or more," Adonis says. "The existing rolling stock dates back to the 1970s and needs to be replaced. If Sir Andrew Foster reaffirms that the Inter-city Express Programme is better than the alternatives, the secretary of state's intention would be to proceed with the project in the next parliament."

In response to the announcement, Agility says that it is disappointed that a contract will not be concluded before the election. However, despite the setback the company says planning for British production and maintenance facilities to support the programme will continue in anticipation of the contract being concluded under the next parliament.

Foster will consult with Agility, the DfT, relevant train operating companies, the Office of Rail Regulation, Network Rail, passenger groups and the Scottish and Welsh devolved administrations to compile the report. It is expected to be published and reported to parliament within three months.