Emma slams Government decision to re-privatise East Coast Main Line

November 28, 2014

Emma Lewell-Buck 09 smallEmma has spoken out against the Government’s decision to award the contract for the East Coast Main Line franchise to a joint bid by Stagecoach and Virgin, taking control away from the public operator that has seen enormous profits and record levels of passenger satisfaction.

The Government announced on Thursday that Virgin and Stagecoach will take control of the service from 2015, taking over from Directly Operated Railways (DOR), the public operator which has run the line since 2009 after the disastrous period under National Express. DOR was not allowed to bid for the new contract.

Under DOR East Coast has been the most profitable rail franchise in Britain, bringing in £1 billion. Rather than going to shareholders, this money has been re-invested in services and the rail network.

As the same time, East Coast services have recorded the highest levels of customer satisfaction in the Rail Passenger Survey since the survey began.

Because of East Coast’s success, Labour argued that it should be allowed to bid for the contract, and if elected in 2015 Labour would allow DOR to bid alongside other operators for all future franchises, enabling the railways to come back into public ownership for the first time since privatisation under the Tories.

However, the Government have insisted on re-privatising the service, despite the massive public subsidies and fare rises that have been seen since privatisation. The taxpayer pays about £4 billion in subsidies to rail companies each year, yet our fares are some of the most expensive in Europe.

Speaking after the Government’s announcement, Emma said:

“Today’s announcement shows that the Government is more interested in helping big businesses make profits than in providing a decent service to passengers. DOR has been a massive success for East Coast by almost every measure, yet they have been shut out of the bidding process in favour of a return to the private model that has seen fares become unaffordable.

“It is only right that our railways should be run by the best operator for the job, whether they are in the public or private sector. Labour would let the public operator compete on a level playing field so that passengers get the best possible deal.”

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