THE operator of a main London to Scotland rail route was today stripped of its franchise after its parent company ran into financial difficulties.
The Department for Transport said it was inviting "expressions of interest" to run the East Coast mainline route which has been run by GNER since the late 1990s.
The route is regularly used by Huddersfield business travellers to London via Leeds and Wakefield stations.
A new franchisee is expected to be in place in 12 to 18 months' time.
GNER will operate the franchise on behalf of the Department for Transport under a no-fee management deal.
GNER's parent company Sea Containers, based in Bermuda, has filed for bankruptcy protection in the USA and has been suspended from the New York Stock Exchange.
Its financial problems were worsened by the fact that under the terms of its franchise, GNER had to pay back £1.3bn to the Treasury over 10 years.
Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander said today: "The Government made it clear that rail operators that fall into financial difficulty should expect to surrender the franchise and not receive financial support.
"To do otherwise could set the precedent that we are willing to bail out operators at extra cost to the taxpayer.
"This agreement protects the interests of both passengers and taxpayers. It will ensure services operate as normal until a private sector franchise operator can be put in place."
The shock moves comes just days after GNER was named the best train company in Britain in the first-ever British Travel Awards.
It reflected the firm's success in achieving its best customer satisfaction rating ever and improvements to services following major investment in new-look Mallard electric trains.
GNER runs 124 weekday trains on the East Coast main line, linking London King's Cross with the East Midlands, Yorkshire, north-east England and Scotland.
It carries almost 17m passengers a year.