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East Coast Main Line to be brought back under public control

Skipton Railway Station

1:10pm 16th May 2018
(Updated 5:46pm 16th May 2018)

Rail services on the East Coast Main Line will be brought back under public control.

It follows the termination of the franchise agreement with Virgin Trains, Stagecoach Group has said.

It's because Stagecoach is losing too much money running the franchise. 

The franchise provides services from London to Yorkshire and Scotland, including Harrogate and Skipton. 

Stagecoach said in a statement:

"We have now been advised by the Department for Transport that the Secretary of State for Transport plans to announce today that he intends to appoint the "Operator of Last Resort" to operate the InterCity East Coast trains services."

Virgin Trains East Coast, a joint venture between Stagecoach (90%) and Virgin (10%) won the right to operate the franchise between London and Edinburgh for eight years in 2014.

Its the third private operator to fail to complete its full term in running the services on the route.

In February, Stagecoach's chief executive Martin Griffiths estimated the company's total losses at £260m.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the East Coast franchise "is not a failing railway" and Stagecoach and Virgin got their sums wrong.

"I plan to use a period of Operator of Last Resort control to shape the new partnership."

While Grayling said there will be no sanctions against Virgin or Stagecoach for their failures, Labour and unions described the decision to end the £3.3bn contract as a "bailout".

Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said:

"This is the second time that the Government have called upon the public sector to launch a rescue operation on the East Coast Main Line and instead of being a temporary arrangement Chris Grayling should listen to his staff and the public and make it permanent.

"After three shambolic private sector failures on the East Coast the message should now sink in that these cowboys cannot be trusted and should be locked out of the system on a permanent basis.

"Anything else risks playing out the same expensive farce over and over again. RMT will now be seeking an urgent meeting with the new operator to bolt down guarantees for staff on jobs, conditions and pensions."

Leader of the Yorkshire Party, Stewart Arnold, said: 

"This is a good move for East Coast and for Yorkshire. It shows that what's in the best interest of Yorkshire need not be ideologically driven. So, for example, there has to be room on our rail network for both public and private operators.

"I hope the two main parties learn from this and put the best interests of people first and not ideology. Tribal dogma has not served Yorkshire well over the years."

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