‘This casts a shadow over the future of York’ – city leader speaks out over East Coast Main Line fiasco

A Virgin train at York station. Photograph: YorkMix
16 May 2018 @ 4.27 pm
| News, Transport

A city leader says the latest failure of the East Coast Main Line franchise casts a shadow on York’s economic future.

Today Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced that the East Coast Mainline will be temporarily brought into public ownership after operators Virgin and Stagecoach could no longer meet payments in the £3.3bn contract.

That is worrying news for York which, according to figures from Make It York, “accounts for 10% of national rail industry employment”, as home to major offices for Network Rail, Northern Rail and Virgin Trains East Coast.

Deputy leader of City of York Council Andrew Waller said he would be writing to Mr Grayling immediately :to seek assurances and guarantees of stability for residents, commuters and workers in York”.

Mr Waller said:

The continued uncertainty over the future operation of the East Coast Mainline is causing significant concern to residents, commuters and workers in the City, as well as casting a shadow over the future economic development of York.

Today’s announcement, the third time in a decade that a private train operator has failed to see out its contract on the East Coast line.

This highlights that lessons have not been learnt from previous flawed attempts. The Government must provide assurances to York and ensure that jobs continue to remain in the city.

Return of the LNER

Chris Grayling on a visit to York last week. Photograph: Danny Lawson / PA Wire

Virgin Trains East Coast – a joint venture between Stagecoach (90%) and Virgin (10%) – was awarded the franchise to run trains for eight years in 2014.

But the private operators have since complained of losing money on the line between London and Edinburgh.

Mr Grayling told the Commons: “I will terminate Virgin Trains East Coast’s contract on June 24 2018.

“I plan to use a period of Operator of Last Resort control to shape the new partnership.

“So on the same day we will start with the launch of a new long-term brand for the East Coast Main Line through the recreation of one of Britain’s iconic rail brands, the London and North Eastern Railway, the LNER.

“The team that’s been working for me since last autumn to form the Operator of Last Resort will take immediate control of passenger services.

“They will then begin the task of working with Network Rail to bring together the teams operating the track and trains on the LNER network.”