The future of the government‘s controversial franchising scheme was thrown further into doubt today with the announcement that Directly Operated Railways (DOR), a company wholly owned by the Department for Transport, has been instructed to set up a subsidiary to potentially run the Great Western franchise. GW Railway Ltd will operate the vital infrastructure link from London to Wales and the South East if talks with First Group, the current franchisees, do not reach a mutually satisfactory conclusion.
Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald, who last week led a Commons debate on the future of the East Coast Main Line, which is currently operated by DOR, said:
The readiness to return the Great Western railway to public ownership demonstrates the Government’s continued confidence in Directly Operated Railways to succeed where private sector operators cannot. This confidence is entirely appropriate given the tremendous achievements of DOR on the East Coast Main Line.
However this move makes the Government’s decision to go full steam ahead on handing East Coast back to the private sector all the more baffling. It is vital that these public services are run for the benefit of the public, and not as sources of subsidy for shareholders.
Edinburgh East MP Sheila Gilmore, who has secured a further Commons debate on the future of the East Coast Main Line next week, said:
The Government’s misguided faith that private is always best has led them to prioritise the re-privatisation of East Coast at the cost of lengthy extensions to other franchises. Now First are demanding extortionate taxpayer subsidies to run Great Western, Ministers are having to ask the public sector to step in again.
This should prompt a rethink. At a minimum, East Coast, which has returned more than £640 million of premium payments to the Treasury since 2009, should be retained as a public sector comparator. Better still, other franchises should be brought back into the public sector and then merged with infrastructure provider Network Rail. Only this way will the railway’s costs be brought under control and sky-high fares be brought down.
Notes to Editors:
Statement from DOR to the RMT union reads:
“GW Railway Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Directly Operated Railways, has today submitted applications to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) for a Safety Certificate (Part A and Part B) and Safety Authorisation in respect of undertaking train and station operations on the Great Western Franchise (i.e. the line of route currently operated by First Greater Western), should current negotiations between the Department for Transport and First Group, on a short term extension to the franchise commencing in October 2013, fail to reach a satisfactory conclusion.”
You can find the RMT’s press release here.
Sheila Gilmore will lead a Backbench Business Committee debate in the House of Commons next Thursday (20th June) from 2.30-5pm. Andy McDonald led a Westminster Hall debate on the same issues last Wednesday (5th June), a transcript of which can be found here.
Any questions please contact Sam Wheeler in Andy McDonald’s office on 02072194995 or email@example.com , or Matt Brennan in Sheila Gilmore’s office on 02072197062 or firstname.lastname@example.org.