A fresh round of protests against the re-privatisation of the East Coast mainline are being planned after it emerged it has paid £235m back to the Government this year.
The figure means that since the line returned to public hands after the collapse of the privately run National Express franchise in 2009, it has generated £1bn in revenue for public coffers.
Despite this, the re-privatisation process will see a new franchise bidder chosen in November. It will then take over its running from Directly Operated Railways in March next year.
Rail union RMT said the £235m figure, an increase of 12% on last year, makes a mockery of the Government’s plans to “bulldoze through a re-privatisation before the next election”.
It says the Government is ignoring the financial and operational success of DOR and the “catastrophic impact of two previous private sector failures on the line”.
The RMT pointed out that the short-listed bidders for the re-privatisation included other European state rail operators, notably Keolis which is tied in with the French state railways.
“This proves once again that the Government are happy to have state control of our main inter-city routes as long as it’s not the British state,” said an RMT spokesman.
He added: “We’re looking to organise a whole range of protests at stations on the East Coast mainline, including those in the North East.”
Meanwhile RMT Acting General Secretary Mick Cash commented: “It is a national disgrace that the Government are continuing with their plans to bulldoze through the re-privatisation of the East Coast Main Line despite the latest figures showing that it is handing massive sums back to the British people while delivering huge improvements in service and customer satisfaction.
“It is simply ludicrous to even contemplate re-privatisation when not only have there been two previous private sector failures on the East Coast route but when the public-sector rescue operation has been such a stunning success.
“While public ownership puts money back into the coffers that can be reinvested in our railways the private operators suck out colossal sums in subsidies and profits – that’s what privatisation means.
“The plans to hand this profitable and successful public rail operation back to the vultures are based purely on hard-right political ideology and RMT is committed to continuing the fight to block them up to polling day and beyond.”
The Journal has contacted the Department for Transport for comment and is awaiting their response.
Following privatisation of the railways in the 1990s, GNER was awarded the East Coast franchise in April 1996, to run what had been the InterCity East Coast division of British Rail.
However, in December 2006, the Department for Transport announced that it was to terminate GNER’s franchise to operate the East Coast main line after it ran into financial difficulties.
In August 2007 it was announced National Express Group had been awarded the franchise, operating under the name of National Express East Coast. However in July 2009 it said it would not be able to financially support its East Coast franchise beyond the end of 2009 when it returned to publics hands.
The three shortlisted bidders for the 393 mile route between London and Edinburgh are:
:: East Coast Trains Ltd (First Group plc)
:: Keolis/Eurostar East Coast Limited (Keolis (UK) Limited and Eurostar International Limited)
:: Inter City Railways Limited (Stagecoach Transport Holdings Limited and Virgin Holdings Limited)