Keeping East Coast on Track

21 June 2013

A campaign to win the support of fare-paying passengers to maintain the East Coast Main Line as publically-owned – rather than privately-run – was launched by the Labour Party with rail trade unions today.

Maria Eagle, the Shadow Transport Secretary, joined Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, and Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, to leaflet passengers at King’s Cross during the rush hour this morning urging them to help ‘keep the East Coast on track’.

The move is in response to the Conservative-led coalition’s bizarre decision to sell off a line – which runs from Aberdeen to London ­– which has returned more than £600 million to the Treasury since being renationalised in 2009.

Maria Eagle said: ‘Despite the East Coast being recognised as the most cost-effective franchise by the independent rail regulator ORR, David Cameron wants to sell it off before the next election. It is a public sector success story which he does not want voters to know about. We do and need their help to keep it in public hands.’

Mick Whelan said: ‘National Express, when it handed back the keys in 2009, left the East Coast franchise in chaos. It has since been successfully run in the public sector. The East Coast Main Line delivers a better deal to the public purse – to each and every taxpayer in Britain – and is a key tool against which we can measure the success or failure of the privatised train operating companies.

‘Each year these companies are moving hundreds of millions of pounds offshore in dividends – money which could and should be kept in this country to hold down fares and help investment in Britain’s railway network. It’s shameful that a government which fears it will lose the next election is tripping over itself in its rush to reprivatise a successful public service. Passengers, staff, and the taxpayer are all set to lose out.’

Manuel Cortes said: ‘The success of the East Coast line has exposed the myth that private rail companies offer better value for money to the taxpayer. They don’t, they swallow more subsidies and run slower trains.’

At the moment the East Coast Main Line belongs to all of us – owned by the government on behalf of all tax payers. At the moment every pound made by East Coast is returned to us. Keeping the East Coast Main Line in public hands ensures that money from fares continues to be reinvested to improve the service.

We want to keep it that way.

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