Latest Rail News

04.03.13

East Coast Main Line services to stay state-run for years – FT

Directly Operated Railways has been told to draw up a five-year plan for its East Coast operations, suggesting that services on the East Coast Main Line could stay state-owned until after the next general election.

The Financial Times reported yesterday that the plan is expected to be confirmed by the Government next month.

Rail franchising policy has been in turmoil since the West Coast debacle and subsequent Laidlaw and Brown reviews, with three franchise competitions cancelled and rescheduled.  

The Government is due to respond to Brown’s recommendations next month, which should include a revised rail franchising timetable. He recommended no more than two competitions a year.

The FT reported: “The East Coast main line is the next to expire, in December, and the state-owned operator of the line was expected to receive a short extension before it was retendered. Instead, the management team of East Coast, which runs intercity services between London, Newcastle and Edinburgh, has been asked to draw up a five-year plan that could see the service run by the state until after the next general election.”

The operator told the newspaper that it was “both prudent and responsible” for it to work on a five-year business plan “with the full knowledge and support of the DfT”.

By the end of its financial year on March 31, 2013, East Coast will have returned £640m in premium payments to the Government since it began operations in November 2009.

Labour has taken an interesting line on the franchise, with shadow transport secretary Marie Eagle saying:  “The Government should abandon their plan to privatise rail services on the East Coast line. It’s time that ministers started to learn the lessons from the West Coast franchising fiasco and dropped their dogmatic ‘carry on regardless’ attitude.”

(Image: Dan Sellers)

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