Alex Sobel has today spoken out in favour of the permanent renationalisation of the East Coast Main Line.
The MP for Leeds North West has long called for the renationalisation of the line, first calling for it in a statement last June. In March, he used a written question to unearth the fact that the franchise was in financial trouble under stagecoach and that plans to temporarily renationalise were in the pipeline.
Last week, the Government announced plans to temporarily renationalise the East Coast Main Line – which runs from Leeds to London – three years after Virgin Trains took control of the service. Transport secretary Chris Grayling has assured passengers that this will not affect the service, but many have asked why this is the third time a private operator has had to be bailed out since 2007.
In a speech to Parliament, Mr Sobel hailed the achievements of the nationalised East Coast franchise. He said that the success was not only because it saved money whilst delivering a more reliable service but also due the ingenuity that the organisation showed in keeping a loyal and satisfied customer base. He said:
“Much has been said about the £1 billion surplus that was poured back into the
Treasury when the East Coast Main Line was run in the public interest prior to Virgin Stagecoach, but less has been said about how East Coast achieved what private companies could not.”
"He described initiatives and offers including benefits for regular business customers such as free first-class tickets, access to the first-class lounge and 20% off advanced fairs. For leisure travellers, a spend of just £255 through the East Coast website entitled them to a free standard-class ticket anywhere on the network, so they could enjoy Yorkshire, the north-east or Scotland completely free."
“After Virgin took over the franchise, it decided to roll out the Nectar point scheme. Subsequently, an £1,800 spend over three months would award business travellers £18-worth of Nectar points, instead of six first-class tickets. A £255 spend would get someone £2.50-worth of Nectar points, instead of one standard ticket under the public East Coast.
"We had a well-run and well-liked organisation that understood its market position and its strengths and weaknesses and improved the service while pouring money back into the public purse. We need to return to that situation, not as a last resort but as a default position, using the best ownership model for rail travellers”
“I often stand at King’s Cross waiting for my train home and see the words “Train cancelled” above me. I look wistfully at platform nine and three quarters, hoping that I may be able to go through the wall and travel home on the Hogwarts Express. Although the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, was a very inept Minister, he at least managed to run the Hogwarts Express successfully—unlike the Secretary of State.”