How can Grayling bring the East Coast back into public ownership?

07 February 2018

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has queried Chris Grayling’s assertion this week that he might bring the East Coast rail line back into public ownership.


‘While I welcome the Transport Secretary’s remarks – because we want all our rail services brought back into public ownership as that’s the best way of running a modern railway – he seems to have forgotten that he can’t actually do it.


‘The East Coast returned £1 billion to the Treasury in the five years it was run by a public body, Directly Operated Railways. But in November 2015 the Conservative government wound up DOR and transferred its function – “to run rail franchises should it be necessary to bring them into public ownership” – to a private partnership consisting of the Arup Group, a private services firm; the accountants Ernst & Young; and the consultants SNC Lavalin Rail & Transit. Lilian Greenwood, Shadow Transport Secretary at the time, pointed out that it was “utterly absurd to contract out our in-house capacity”. But that’s what the Tories have done.


‘So when Chris Grayling told the Commons earlier this week that “the current franchise holder will collapse in a couple of months”, and that replacing Virgin-Stagecoach with a public operator was “very much on the table”, what did he mean?’


Mick added: ‘Bringing the East Coast back into public ownership would mean another £1 billion that could be invested in the railway – either by investing in infrastructure or by bringing down fares – or spent on our schools and hospitals, rather than disappearing in dividends to shareholders, often overseas, as happens under private ownership.


‘But does Chris Grayling really mean he wants to pay his chums at Arup, EY and SNC a lot of money for doing work that could and should be done in-house? This is the man, remember, who kept giving work to Carillion when he knew it was about to go bust? His track record is appalling.’

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