Published: Thu, May 17, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Chris Grayling defends handling of East Coast line

Chris Grayling defends handling of East Coast line

A Virgin Train on the East Coast Main Line.

Speaking to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling defended the government's handling of the service.

John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, criticised ministers for scheduling a statement on the franchise reducing the time for a Labour-led debate on Grenfell Tower.

How was it meant to work?


Those advocating renationalisation across the piece should be asking themselves whether DOR would have been able to run the service it did had it been obliged to invest as much in the route as did Virgin Trains or if it were having to return as much to taxpayers as Virgin Trains.

The London to Edinburgh line has been run by a joint venture between Stagecoach and Virgin, for the last three years.

Britains passenger and freight services were broken up and privatised in the 1990s.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said he is pleased to see Grayling "implementing first stage of Labour's Manifesto promise to renationalise the railways" following the announcement, and echoed Caroline Lucas's appeals for public ownership to be extended across the entire network.

Sir Richard said delays to the upgrade had "torpedoed" the assumptions behind the original bid. Stagecoach promised vastly more, £3.3bn by 2023, but found it impossible to pay up. However, several train companies face similar struggles to Stagecoach and Virgin after overbidding for franchises and events may yet force his hand again. Although the line is profitable, it isn't bringing in enough revenues to cover those commitments.

Mr Grayling told Parliament Stagecoach and VTEC would have lost over £200 million and suffered considerable "reputational price" due to the failed rail service. But he added they wouldn't be excluded from bidding to run other parts of the network in future.

LNER will have a new board and an independent chairman, and in a departure from past practice will feature representatives of both the train operating team and state-backed track owner Network Rail Ltd., Grayling said.

The contract with Virgin Trains East Coast which began only in 2015 will end on 24 June 2018 when the government will recreate what the Transport Minister described as one of Britain's iconic rail brands, the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) thus reinstating what was in place nearly 100 years ago in 1921.

Moreover, Virgin Trains has returned 30% per year more to taxpayers during its time running the route than did DOR, making it a much better-value option for taxpayers.

GNER, which run the route from 1996, collapsed in 2007 and the franchise was taken over by National Express before the government announced it was establishing a publicly owned company to take over the franchise from 2009.

The future of the services is now uncertain as the Department for Transport, Stagecoach and Virgin are yet to clarify the situation.

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