There were two announcements regarding train franchises yesterday. On the West Coast mainline, Virgin trains got their contract extended to 2017.
This is good news. It ends the uncertainty, and rewards a company who has a track record on delivering a good service.
The second announcement was that the East Coast mainline would be put out to franchise.
My view is that the East Coast mainline has been well run in the past couple of year and I don’t think it needs to be re-franchised now. I think that it should remain within the public sector for a longer period.
This decision ignores the lessons of recent private rail franchise failures.
But if the Government must go down this route, as a minimum we ought to allow Directly Operated Railways to bid to run the franchise.
I asked the Minister,
“By deciding to re-franchise the east coast mainline in the future we risk not being able to judge whether the public sector or private sector is best for the passenger, the tax payer and the railways. Surely as a minimum we ought to allow Directly operated railways to bid to run the franchise?”