David Williams, the Labour Party’s Parliamentary Candidate for Crewe and Nantwich, has welcomed the announcement that the East Coast Main Line will be taken back into public ownership from midnight tonight.
National Express has lost the East Coast Main line railway franchise which operates train services between London and Edinburgh. National Express was committed to pay £1.3bn under the original franchise terms, but attempted to ease those terms in talks with the Department for Transport broke down earlier this year.
The Transport Minister, Lord Adonis issued a formal termination notice to National Express last Wednesday and said that the franchise will be transferred to a new publicly owned and government controlled company, ‘Directly Operated Railways, trading as East Coast’ as from 11.59pm on 13th November 2009. He said, “I can assure the travelling public that services will continue without disruption and all tickets will be honoured.”
The staff currently employed by National Express East Coast will transfer to the new operator, and services are likely to remain in public hands until at least 2011.
David Williams, in welcoming this move, said, “Throughout the history of the railways, Labour Governments have had to step in when privately run railway companies have failed to deliver. This time it is National Express and I’m sure we will see more in the future.”
He added, “I was working for Gwyneth Dunwoody MP when the Tories forced through the privatisation of the railways in 1994 against the will of local railway workers. I share the view of the railway unions that bids for train operating franchises should be tested against a not-for-profit operator. If a private bidder can win on that basis, let them have the franchise, otherwise let’s make sure that the benefit of Labour’s record investment in the railways goes to the passengers and not to the shareholders.”
A Spokesman for National Express said, “During the past five months the group has worked with the Department for Transport and the proposed operator to ensure an orderly handover.”
Directly Operated Railways has been set up by the Department for Transport and will be headed by the transport expert Elaine Holt. As Chief Executive she will lead a team of railway industry experts with expertise in engineering, administration and human resources.
David Williams said, “I have spoken to many former British Rail employees in Crewe and Nantwich, who can only marvel at the amount of money Labour is pumping into our railway infrastructure. They tell me that if the current level of Government subsidy had been available in the dark days of Thatcher and Major, we would have the best railway in the world.”