13 November 2009: Later today the Government is taking over the East Coast rail franchise from National Express. We think this is a chance to improve things for passengers.
The Government is now in charge of the trains going from London to Scotland. What a perfect opportunity to encourage people to switch from plane to train! There's no need to wait for a high speed rail line that may or may not get built. The Government could start right now by cutting walk-on rail fares on the East Coast line, where currently only 54% of passengers think their ticket is value for money. Unfortunately the Government is not planning anything like this. Instead it wants to go ahead with the above-inflation fare increases National Express had planned for January. If you think that's unacceptable, join our campaign.
The problem is that the Government is trying to make money from the railways by asking for huge payments from train companies in the franchise agreements (and to make this money, fares have to go up). National Express failed because it promised to pay the Government too much money - £1.4 billion by 2015.
One of the reasons why the Government wants these large payments is that the cost of running the railway has gone up hugely since privatisation. So here's another challenge to the Government: why not keep the East Coast franchise in the public sector and see if it provides better value for money? Lower costs means more money can be invested in improving things for passengers.