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Labour MP calls for halt in franchise approval

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh has urged the government to put a halt to plans to sell the East Coast trains franchise, despite a consortium involving Stagecoach and Virgin being announced as the new owners.

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh has urged the government to put a halt to plans to sell the East Coast trains franchise Credit: Press Association

Ms. Creagh, who was Shadow Secretary of State for Transport until recently, said that the contract had not yet been signed and there was still time for the government to reverse the decision:

The taxpayer and Wakefield rail passengers have been sold down the river by the government. Publicly run East Coast will have returned over £1billion to the taxpayer and is one of the best train operating companies in the country.

The contract has not yet been signed and Labour is calling for the franchise process to be halted. It’s absurd that our own public operator is the only rail company in the world barred from challenging to run its own services.

Labour has challenged this ideological nonsense. We would legislate to allow a not-for-profit public sector operator to take on and challenge train operators on a level playing field.

– Mary Creagh, MP

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East Coast: the facts and figures

East Coast train Credit: East Coast

Here are some key facts and figures about East Coast main line rail company.

It has been announced that a consortium involving Virgin Trains and Stagecoach will run the East Coast main line franchise from next year.

  • Passenger journeys have increased by 1.1m in the past five years.
  • Journeys between Scotland and London have increased by 23%.
  • Customer satisfaction has increased from 89% in 2009 to 91% in 2014.
  • Revenue has increased from £581.3m in 2008-2009 to £652.6m to 2013-14.
  • East Coast invested £48m since 2009.
  • The taxpayer has received £1 billion back in premium payments and profits.
  • In partnership with Network Rail, redeveloped Newcastle station through an £8.6 million investment
  • East Coast - based in York - employs 2,800 people based at stations, depots and offices from London to Inverness.
  • East Coast’s Highland Chieftain service is Britain’s longest single continuous train journey operating daily between London and Inverness, a distance of 581 miles, and taking 8 hours and 6 minutes.
  • Since the spring of 2011, East Coast has been recognised by numerous industry organisations, and the Company has been the recipient of 55 such awards

Transport Secretary: Franchise to serve places which haven't been served before

The Transport Secretary says the new franchise which will take over the running of East Coast trains will bring services to places which have never had them.

Huddersfield, Harrogate, Lincoln and Dewsbury are among the places to be promised new or increased services.

Patrick McLoughlin says it is a good story for the East Coast:

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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

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
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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

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
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