Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

Britain renationalises East Coast rail line

Exclusive: Government to 'renationalise' East Coast rail after string of failures East Coast Mainline: Government Expected To Renationalise One Of Britain's Busiest Railway Lines
Ellis Copeland | 16 May, 2018, 17:30

Stagecoach said on Wednesday that the government had scrapped the contract, three months after Transport Minister Chris Grayling said he was considering taking back control of the line which it has run since 2015.

The Stagecoach-dominated firm will be replaced by a public sector "operator of last resort" which will revive the historic name London North Eastern Railway (LNER).

Stagecoach said it has "already impaired intangible assets" and "provided for losses" in relation to the East Coast line in its 2017 financial year results.

A key element of the VTEC franchise bid was the expansion of services from 2019 onwards based on the delivery of new trains (currently under construction) and a programme of infrastructure enhancements on the East Coast Main Line (ECML). "The first was to permit Stagecoach to continue to operate the railway on a not-for-profit basis until 2020, and to permit them to earn a performance-related payment at the end of their contract".

Virgin Trains East Coast - a partnership between Stagecoach and Virgin - was awarded the franchise for eight years in 2014.

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, told the House of Commons that after a "finely balanced" assessment by civil servants, he had chose to appoint the "operator of last resort" - a group led by the firm Arup and under government control - to run the service, rather than allow Stagecoach and Virgin to continue under fresh terms.

Stagecoach Group chief executive Martin Griffiths said: "We are surprised and disappointed that the Department for Transport has chosen not to proceed with our proposals".

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Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is expected to make a statement to parliament shortly.

He said: "Every announcement is a smokescreen to divert attention from the failings of the Transport Secretary's policy".

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the main train drivers' union, said it hoped Mr Grayling would now bring the rest of our railways into public ownership too.

"Anything else risks playing out the same expensive farce over and over again".

"It will have representatives of both the train operating team and Network Rail, as well as independent members who will importantly ensure the interests of other operators on the route are taken into account".

Mr Grayling said he has received "official advice" that Virgin and Stagecoach should be allowed to continue bidding for future rail franchises.

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