RENATIONALISE the Railways now, the RMT, Aslef and Unite trade unions demanded yesterday, after Tory Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced that East Coast Main Line is being brought into ‘temporary state ownership’ and renamed London and North Eastern Railway (LNER). The London to Edinburgh line has been run as a joint venture by privateers Stagecoach and Virgin since 2015.
Following Grayling’s announcement, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘This is the second time that the government have called upon the public sector to launch a rescue operation on the East Coast Main Line and instead of being a temporary arrangement Chris Grayling should listen to his staff and the public and make it permanent.
‘After three shambolic private sector failures on the East Coast, the message should now sink in that these cowboys cannot be trusted and should be locked out of the system on a permanent basis. ‘Anything else risks playing out the same expensive farce over and over again. ‘RMT will now be seeking an urgent meeting with the new operator to bolt down guarantees for staff on jobs, conditions and pensions.’
Mick Whelan, Aslef general secretary, said: ‘This is the third time in 10 years that a private company has mucked up the east coast main line. In contrast, when it was run in the public sector, it returned £1bn to the Treasury. ‘That shows what we have been saying all along – that Britain’s railways should be run, successfully, as a public service, not for private profit. Because they can’t do it, Virgin and Stagecoach have managed reverse alchemy – by turning gold into base metal, and profits into losses on the east coast.’
Unite national lead officer for the rail industry Hugh Roberts said: ‘After a hat-trick of failures on the East Coast mainline in the last 10 years with ministers having to intervene, now is the time for this service to be brought back under state ownership permanently. ‘It is clear that the privatisation of the railways – the misguided brainchild of John Major’s Tory government in the 1990s – has hit the buffers. It has reached the end of the line.
‘Bringing back the East Coast mainline under public control permanently should be the first stage in returning the whole network to public ownership. ‘Rail privatisation has been an expensive and ideologically-driven failure that has been a constant drain on the taxpayer’s pocket.
‘It would be best for the economy, the Treasury and the hard-pressed rail traveller paying through the nose for their tickets, if ministers blew the whistle on rail privatisation.’ Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald responded to Grayling’s announcement in the House of Commons, saying: ‘There’s a clear solution to the problems on the East Coast Mainline … I’m just sorry the Secretary of State won’t accept the stark staringly obvious answer, an integrated railway under public ownership run for passengers not for profit.’