East Coast rail back in private hands

An East Coast line train Image copyright PA

The East Coast rail route between London and Scotland has returned to private hands after more than five years in the public sector.

Services on the line have been operated by a Department for Transport (DfT) controlled company since November 2009.

From Sunday they are being run jointly by Virgin and Stagecoach, under the name Virgin Trains East Coast.

The DfT said the new franchise would mean "the best deal for passengers", but Labour criticised the move.

When franchise holder National Express pulled out in November 2009, the then-Labour government took over the running of the line.

But the current coalition government had always intended to return it to the private sector.

'Costly mistake'

Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said the ending of the state-run East Coast company was "a hammer blow for passengers, taxpayers and employees alike".

"David Cameron's ideological sell-off has ended a public sector service which has delivered over £1bn to the Treasury, kept fares down, had record passenger satisfaction and engaged the workforce with unparalleled success."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The skills and experience that the private sector provides drives forward innovation and investment, and has helped to transform our rail network into a real success story.

"We are confident that the new East Coast franchise gives the best deal for passengers.

'More seats'

"It will provide more seats, more services, new trains and over £140m of investment along the route.

"In addition, more than £3bn will be paid to taxpayers."

The £140m will be invested over eight years, with the £3bn coming from the money Virgin Trains East Coast is paying for the contract.

Its plans include 23 new services to and from London, and 3,100 extra seats for the morning peak by 2020.

Services currently run from London King's Cross to Edinburgh, serving locations such as Peterborough, Doncaster, Leeds, York and Newcastle.

Image copyright Department for Transport

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