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Ministers Urged To Delay East Coast Main Line Sell-Off

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Ministers are under pressure not to sell the East Coast Main Line to Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin group and the transport firm Stagecoach as this planned privatisastion “does not have political consensus”.

The Government announced today that a consortium involving Virgin and Stagecoach had been chosen to operate a new eight-year East Coast franchise, the UK’s two main London to Scotland rail routes, from March.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the new franchise was “a fantastic deal for passengers and for staff on this vital route” and would give passengers “more seats, more services and new trains”.

However, shadow transport secreatry Michael Dugher said the travelling public had been “sold down the river” and revealed that he had written to the Department for Transport’s permanent secretary asking him to postpone the East Coast sell-off as he warned that there had been an “obvious political nature” to its handling.

Virgin and Stagecoach already operate the West Coast main line and have promised improved services on East Coast which has been run in the public sector since 2009.

Transport unions, upset that East Coast has not remained in the public sector, described the franchise announcement as “an utter betrayal” and an example of “sheer political spite”.

Under the terms of the eight-year franchise, run by “Inter City Railways”, there will be:

  • 23 new services from London to key destinations, with 75 more station calls a day
  • Plans for direct links to Huddersfield, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Dewsbury and Thornaby
  • Proposals for more trains to London from Bradford, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Leeds, Lincoln, Newcastle, Shipley, Stirling and York
  • 3,100 extra seats for the morning peak time by 2020
  • Across the entire train fleet there will be 12,200 additional seats – a 50% increase
  • 65 state-of-the-art Intercity Express trains brought into passenger service from 2018, totalling 500 new carriages
  • Journey times from London to Leeds reduced by 14 minutes, and from London to Edinburgh by 13 minutes
  • A £140 million investment package to improve trains and stations

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