Middlesbrough South and East MP Simon Clarke has today welcomed confirmation from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling that the extension of direct services between London Kings Cross and Middlesbrough will be unaffected by the announcement that the Government will take the East Coast Mainline into temporary public ownership.
Mr Clarke pressed the Secretary of State on this issue in the statement he made to the House of Commons this lunchtime. Mr Grayling told him that the new services will be unaffected by the move to strip Virgin Trains and Stagecoach of the franchise, an assurance Mr Clarke describes as “hugely important.”
Virgin Trains East Coast and Stagecoach made a serious error by overbidding to run the franchise in 2015, leading to their making huge losses despite the East Coast Mainline being a profitable railway. They are now unable to continue to run the franchise.
In response, the Transport Secretary has declared there will be a period of Operator of Last Resort control of passenger services. A new organisation will be launched with the new, long-term brand for the East Coast Mainline: the London North Eastern Railway (LNER). Following a competition to determine a new private partner, the new LNER operation will be a partnership between the public and private sectors.
Simon Clarke MP said, “It is hugely important that the Transport Secretary was able to reassure me that the new direct services between Middlesbrough and London Kings Cross will proceed as planned. This is something people and businesses across Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland are relying on and the failure of Virgin and Stagecoach must not place this at risk.
“The decision to take the East Coast Mainline back into temporary public ownership is the right one. The timetable will remain the same, tickets purchased for future travel, including season tickets, will continue to be valid, and customers will continue to be able to book their travel in the normal way. There will also be no impact on staff, with all of Virgin Trains East Coast’s direct employees transferring to the new Operator of Last Resort business: it will be no different from a normal franchise change.
“It’s really important people understand that Virgin and Stagecoach are not being ‘bailed out’ by the Government, but will lose over £200 million as a result of their bad decisions. It’s also important to scotch the myth that renationalising all our rail services would deliver better outcomes – British Rail presided over old trains on a crumbling network that hardly ever ran on time. Private sector investment has delivered huge improvements and ensured we have been able to invest far more in our railways than if they were competing with schools and hospitals for public funding. This is what the new public-private partnership must continue to deliver.”