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Roads to Nowhere

East Coast railway must stay in public sector

Former campaigner's picture

1 July 2009: The Government is setting up a publicly owned company to run trains on the East Coast mainline by the end of the year, because National Express cannot meet its franchise commitments. This is a chance for Government to learn lessons and try to improve things for passengers. We’ve got three suggestions:

1) The Government must stop cutting its rail funding and increasing fares.

Deals between train companies and the Government involve large sums of money being paid back to Government. This means the companies are forced to increase fares. National Express wasn’t making enough money from passengers to pay back the £1.4 billion it owed the Government. We're campaigning for the Government to invest in our railways instead of squeezing passengers.

2) The Government must run the East Coast franchise to meet passengers needs, not the need to make money.

That means investing in improvements, and reversing National Express decisions to introduce ticket gates at all stations, and to charge passengers extra to guarantee getting a seat.

3) The Government should keep the East Coast franchise in the public sector and evaluate whether that provides better value for money.

This is a big opportunity for the Government to find out whether railways can be run more efficiently by the public sector. It should not relet the East Coast contract but should allow the public company to continue running train services in the long term, as a benchmark for other franchises, and find out if it performs better. Saving money means more money for investment, and better services for passengers.

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