Government considers putting Great Northern under public control

Ivan Schwartz
May 17, 2018

If a franchise is terminated or there are no acceptable private bids, the Secretary of State for Transport can take over the franchise as an operator of last resort.

He pledged to "work constructively with the DfT and the OLR" to ensure a "professional transfer" to the new arrangements.

ASLEF's general secretary Mick Whelan, who represents trains drivers, called on Mr. Grayling to "bring the rest of our railways back into public ownership".

On June 24, Virgin Trains East Coast's (VTEC) contract will end and the Department for Transport (DfT)-owned operating company, London North Eastern Railway (LNER), will take over the running of services.

GNER was stripped of the route in 2007 after its parent company, Sea Containers, suffered financial difficulties, while National Express withdrew in 2009.

Stagecoach confirmed that negotiations had been under way over a new direct award to replace the present franchise, which began in March 2015 and should have run until 2023.

The line that Great Northern operates may come under public control.

Mr Grayling said at the time it was clear the franchise would only continue in its current form for a "very small number of months" and the option of the Department for Transport stepping in was "very much on the table".

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The continued uncertainty over the future operation of the East Coast Mainline is causing significant concern to residents, commuters and workers in the City, as well as casting a shadow over the future economic development of York.

Passengers spoke of their concerns for services on the line when i travelled on one of the red and grey trains in February, with some saying the rail operator should not be allowed to "just walk away".

"We've had reform, reform and reform".

"There's a definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results".

Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Mike Rumbles MSP said: "Stagecoach failed spectacularly to deliver on its East Coast mainline rail contract, compromising one of Scotland's most important transport arteries". Franchising remains at the heart of the alleged partnerships.

He added when the franchise "was run it the public sector, it returned more than £1bn to the Treasury". "[The Conservatives] are defending a broken system at the passengers expense".

The chair of the transport select committee, Lilian Greenwood, said the previous transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, had told the Commons in November 2014 that the promised £3.3bn for the taxpayer was robust and had been subjected to rigorous, independent scrutiny.

Labour MP for Bradford South Judith Cummins said the whole saga "smacks of a pattern of failure and incompetence" and Mr Grayling as Transport Secretary "should take responsibility". And customers will continue to be able to book their travel in the normal way.

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