The London to Scotland route was given up by National Express in that year.
Ten of the country’s 16 rail franchises are due for renewal before the general election, expected in 2015.
Rail franchising was halted last year after a decision to award the UK’s West Coast Main Line rail franchise to FirstGroup was scrapped.
The transport secretary found there were “significant technical flaws” in the bidding process because of mistakes by Department for Transport staff and three civil servants were suspended.
Virgin Trains, which was given the right to run the West Coast line for a further two years while the system is sorted out, is understood to be keen to bid for the new East Coast contract.
Its contract to run the West Coast is also expected to be extended by another two years.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced the start of a bidding process for the East Coast franchise on Tuesday, reports The BBC.
He also published a detailed timetable for all rail franchise arrangements over the next eight years.
The East Coast route stops at such locations as Peterborough, Leeds, York, Newcastle, Berwick upon Tweed and Edinburgh’s Waverley station, where connections are available to other parts of Scotland.