Hartlepool MP says public control of '˜shambolic' rail franchise is long overdue

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill has welcomed a government decision to bring rail services on the East Coast Main Line back under public control as '˜long overdue'.

Friday, 18th May 2018, 4:08 pm
Updated Friday, 18th May 2018, 4:11 pm
The East Coast Main Line operates between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh

Transport Secretary Chris Gralying told Parliament services on the line between London and Edinburgh will be overseen by the Department for Transport from June 24 following the termination of the franchise agreement with Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC).

He told the Commons that the parent companies of VTEC, Stagecoach and Virgin, which were originally due to run the line until 2023 had “got their bid wrong”.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill. Picture by FRANK REID

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The firms agreed to pay £3.3bn for the right to run the line but it became clear they were not making enough money and the arrangement was unsustainable.

Mr Hill said: “Many of my constituents use the East Coast Mainline and I am pleased that reassurances have been given that services will not be disrupted.

“The franchise to run services on the route between London and Edinburgh was given to Virgin/Stagecoach in 2015 despite the fact that prior to it was state run and returned over £1 billion to the Treasury.

“The operation of the line should never have been handed over to the private sector and the news vindicates that.

“The operation of this line has been shambolic and taking services back into public ownership is long overdue, although I fear that yet again this will be a time limited measure and I will be watching with interest how the Secretary proceeds in his aim to resurrect the iconic London North East Railway (LNER) brand.”

The Government will oversee the running of the line until a previously-announced public-private partnership named the East Coast Partnership running both trains and track operations is introduced in 2020.

Mr Grayling said there would be no impact on passengers or train staff as the switch would be “no different from a normal franchise change”.

VTEC is the third private operator to fail to complete the full length of a contract to run services on the East Coast route after GNER and National Express.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said Mr Grayling had “gifted” Stagecoach and Virgin a £2 billion bailout.

But Mr Grayling insisted that “taxpayers have not lost out” and it is only the private firms that have made losses.