National Express wins East Coast from GNER

14 August 2007

Bus and train operator National Express Group has won the InterCity East Coast rail franchise currently held by GNER. It will run the franchise until 2015. ASLEF will seek urgent talks to ensure the company intends to maintain conditions for drivers – but general secretary Keith Norman says he remains astonished that a Labour government still favours ‘the folly of franchising’.

‘Tom Harris, the rail minister, said this morning that he hoped the company would keep fares down and that its performance would improve.

‘He is acting like an optimistic observer – not a government minister,’ Keith says. ‘A Labour transport minister should want to play a central decision making and operational role in a public transport service. This government is content to make its minister little more than a cheer-leader for private train operating companies. It’s a rather pathetic sight.’

The minister says he hopes the franchise will provide better reliability, more trains and easier ways to buy tickets. ‘On the other hand,’ observes Keith, ‘what else could he or the company possibly say?’

The franchise, covering services connecting London with Scotland via Peterborough, Leeds and Newcastle, will start on 9 December and run until 31 March 2015. National Express will pay almost £1.5 billion for the contract.

GNER pulled out of its franchise last year because its parent company, Sea Containers, was in financial difficulties.

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