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Shadow Transport Secretary: public 'sold down the river'

Virgin will be running the UK's two main London to Scotland rail routes in 2015. The Government announced today that a consortium involving Virgin Group and Stagecoach had been chosen to operate a new eight-year East Coast franchise.

Virgin and Stagecoach already operate the West Coast main line.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the new franchise was "a fantastic deal for passengers and for staff on this vital route" and would give passengers "more seats, more services and new trains".

But shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher disagrees. He says the travelling public had been "sold down the river".

"The taxpayer and the travelling public have been sold down the river. This whole franchise process shouldn't have happened.

"East Coast has ... established itself as one of the best train operating companies in the country. Rather than rigging the franchise timetable in order to sell it off before the election, David Cameron's Government should have been putting the public interest first and working to get a better deal for passengers."

"It's absurd that our own public operator is the only rail company in the world that has been barred from challenging to run its own services, on the ideological grounds that it is British and publicly owned."

– Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher
  1. Tyne Tees

Unite calls East Coast decision a 'betrayal'

Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, has branded the East Coast decision a 'betrayal'.

A consortium involving Virgin Trains and Stagecoach will run the East Coast main line franchise from next year. The decision marks the return to the private sector for East Coast, which has been run by the Department for Transport since 2009.

"This nakedly political decision to rush through this reprivatisation before the general election is a betrayal of the taxpayers and staff who have made East Coast a success.

"Rail privatisation has spectacularly failed both taxpayers and the travelling public. Rather than one that has glued itself to a failed dogma, we need a government that puts the people and our national bank balance first."

– Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary

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Green Party slam East Coast privatisation move

The Green Party in Thirsk and Malton have slammed the government's decision to privatise the East Coast Main Line after it was announced a consortium involving Virgin and Stagecoach will run services from March 2015.

The party said people in the area depend on current links which they say have been the "best level of service" in the UK. They described the move as a "spiteful, dogmatic decision".

I travel this line regularly and have seen first hand the improvements that have been made. Most people believe rail is critically important and should be in public hands. It is a disgrace that a minority government should make this perverse decision so near to an election.

– Nic Burton, Green Party Thirsk and Malton

City of York Council welcome Inter City Railway franchise

York's council have welcomed the franchising of the East Coast Main Line saying the move could enable economic growth in the city.

York already has over 5,000 people in rail related industries and we see this as a potential area for growth that Stagecoach and Virgin Group can support by locating their headquarters in the city, following on from the precedent set by previous operators of Inter City East Coast services. This will help underline the point that York is a place where the rail industry can do business, with ready access to skilled people and other rail organisations. We are looking forward to working with Stagecoach and Virgin Group to discuss how we can work together to improve both rail services and employment opportunities for our city.

– Cllr David Levene, Cabinet Member for Transport
  1. Tyne Tees

Transport Secretary: 'Stagecoach and Virgin will deliver '

The Transport Secretary has said he believes the East Coast announcement is good for the taxpayer. A consortium involving Virgin Trains and Stagecoach will run the East Coast main line franchise from next year. Patrick McLoughlin says £38billion will be spent on the network.

“This is a fantastic deal for passengers and for staff on this vital route. It gives passengers more seats, more services and new trains.

“We are putting passengers at the heart of the service. I believe Stagecoach and Virgin will not only deliver for customers but also for the British taxpayer.

“This government knows the importance of our railways. That is why they are a vital part of our long term economic plan, with over £38 billion being spent on the network over the next five years.”

– Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin

Rail union: East Coast privatisation a 'national disgrace'

Rail union, the RMT, have criticised the government's decision to privatise the East Coast mainline and sell it to a consortium involving Virgin and Stagecoach.

Mick Cash described it as a "national disgrace" and said the current arrangement was earning the British people £1 billion:

It is a national disgrace and an act of utter betrayal that the government has confirmed that it is bulldozing ahead with the re-privatisation of the East Coast Main Line despite all the figures showing that the current public sector operator is handing over a billion pounds back to the British people while delivering huge improvements in service and customer satisfaction.

It is simply ludicrous to even contemplate re-privatisation when not only have there been two previous private sector failures on the East Coast route but when the public-sector rescue operation has been such a stunning success. This is pure industrial vandalism by a rotten government hell bent on wrecking successful public services in the name of private greed.

While domestic public ownership puts money back into the coffers that can be reinvested in our railways the private operators suck out colossal sums in subsidies and profits - that's what privatisation means.

The decision to hand this profitable and successful public rail operation back to the vultures from Virgin/Stagecoach is based purely on hard-right political ideology and RMT is committed to continuing the fight to block this betrayal right up to polling day and beyond.

– Mick Cash, General Secretary RMT

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Inter City Railways promises more services to Yorkshire and Lincolnshire

More services to key locations in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire have been promised as part of a new franchise deal for East Coast Trains.

More services to key locations in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire have been promised as part of a new franchise deal for East Coast Trains. Credit: http://maps.dft.gov.uk/east-coast/#london-kings-cross

The consortium buying the company includes Richard Branson's Virgin and Stagecoach who already run West Coast Rail.

At Lincoln there will be an additional six trains from and five trains to London from May 2019.

Leeds will have an additional five services to and from London per day and regular journey times of two hours from 2020.

Harrogate will have an additional six trains to and from London per day from 2019.

An additional 6 trains to and from London will pass through Shipley, stopping at Bradford, per day from 2019.

Huddersfield becomes a new destination for ICEC services with one service to and from London per day, passing through Dewsbury, from 2019.

Click here for an interactive map of the proposed routes.

Inter City Railways: What you need to know

The new operator of the London to Scotland East Coast route will be called Inter City Railways.

It will be run by a consortium involving Virgin, owned by Richard Branson, and transport company Stagecoach.

The new operator of the London to Scotland East Coast route will be called Inter City Railways. Credit: Press Association

Key aspects of the eight-year franchise agreement are listed below:

  • 23 new services from London to key destinations, with 75 more station calls a day
  • Plans for direct links to Huddersfield, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Dewsbury and Thornaby
  • Proposals for more trains to London from Bradford, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Leeds, Lincoln, Newcastle, Shipley, Stirling and York
  • 3,100 extra seats for the morning peak time by 2020
  • Across the entire train fleet there will be 12,200 additional seats - a 50% increase
  • 65 state-of-the-art Intercity Express trains brought into passenger service from 2018, totalling 500 new carriages
  • Journey times from London to Leeds reduced by 14 minutes, and from London to Edinburgh by 13 minutes
  • A £140 million investment package to improve trains and stations
  • Over the next eight years Inter City Railways will pay the Government around £3.3 billion to operate the franchise

Click here to view an interactive map of how the new routes will affect you.

This is a fantastic deal for passengers and for staff on this vital route. It gives passengers more seats, more services and new trains. We are putting passengers at the heart of the service. I believe Stagecoach and Virgin will not only deliver for customers but also for the British taxpayer. This Government knows the importance of our railways. That is why they are a vital part of our long-term economic plan, with over £38 billion being spent on the network over the next five years.

– Patrick McLoughlin, Transport Secretary

A passion for customers, employees and the community is at the heart of our plans for the franchise. We want to build on the quality and pride of the people who will be joining our team.

– Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach group chief executive

East Coast consortium announced

A consortium involving Sir Richard Branson's train company Virgin Trains has been chosen to run the East Coast main line franchise from next year.

A consortium involving Sir Richard Branson's train company Virgin Trains has been chosen to run the East Coast main line franchise from next year. Credit: Press Association

The Department for Transport said the consortium involving Virgin and transport company Stagecoach, who already run the West Coast line, will start the East Coast franchise in March 2015 .

The award of the new franchise marks a return to the private sector for East Coast which has been run by the DfT since 2009 following the withdrawal of National Express.

Labour and transport unions had fought to keep East Coast in the public sector, pointing to the good returns it has made to the Treasury.

There has been speculation that a consortium of Eurotunnel and French company Keolis which is 70% owned by French state railway SNCF, had been chosen as the new East Coast operator.

But Eurotunnel/Keolis have now missed out, as have the other shortlisted bidder, FirstGroup (correct) which has recently also lost its First Capital Connect and ScotRail franchises.

Job cuts at Yorkshire newspapers

Johnston Press has announced up to 19 job cuts at titles in Yorkshire. Staff at the Yorkshire Publishing Unit, which has 19 titles, including the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post, Scarborough News, Halifax Courier series and Yorkshire Weekly Newspaper Group, were told the editorial budget would be reduced by 8%. Between 15 and 19 jobs could go, equivalent to one per title, by the end of March. The company said this would be in addition to the seven photographers at risk of compulsory redundancy on weekly titles in Yorkshire. The cuts are part of a plan for more sharing of content between titles. Staff were told investment in improved websites was part of this plan.

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