East Coast


The East Coast Main Line was publicly run between 2009 and 2015. During that time services improved and profits were retained for public benefit, rather than lost to shareholders. As a result Labour pledged that, should we win the 2015 General Election, East Coast would be kept in public hands.

On Tuesday 26 March 2013 the Government announced its intention to privatise East Coast by February 2015. This was a cynical attempt by Tory Ministers to wreck Labour’s plan, and shows that the David Cameron and his Ministers put ideology before the needs of passengers and taxpayers.

That’s why along with other Labour MPs, I started a campaign to stop the privatisation plans. This page summarises all my work on this issue.

Update: 30 March 2013
Today I’ve launched my campaign with an article in the Edinburgh Evening News.

Update: 31 March 2013
Rail commentator and Labour supporter Christian Wolmar has written an excellent piece for LabourList on this issue.

Update: 16 April 2013
Now that the number of signatories has now reached 100 I’ve written to the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to formally set out my concerns on this issue.

Update: 18 April 2013
You might be interested to note that several stories appeared in the press following figures from the Office for Rail Regulation that suggested East Coast was the most efficient operator in terms of the amount of subsidy received. The best coverage was in the Guardian and Financial Times.

Update: 23 April 2013
I’ve received a reply to my letter from Rail Minister Simon Burns. It completely fails to justify Government plans. While Mr Burns highlights the welcome public investment going into the rail network, this is separate from the question of who runs services, and in fact reinforces the argument for continued public involvement – if its public money that is being invested then it seems wrong for private companies to benefit. I circulated a press release on this that I later posted on my website.

Update: 25 April
I raised the issue of East Coast twice in the House of Commons, first at Transport Questions and then in a subsequent debate on an EU document on railways.

Update: 1 May
I’ve written a piece on this issue for the parliamentary magazine The House.

Update: 7 May 2013
I’ve written an article for Progress arguing that a future Labour Government should go let all the remaining private franchises run their course, recreate a single public intercity operator, and devolve regional franchises to groups of local authorities. These public operators could then work closely with infrastructure provider Network Rail to reduce costs.

Update: 10 May 2013
I’ve tabled Early Day Motion 58 – in effect a petition for MPs – calling for the Government to drop its plans to re-privatise services. I’m currently encouraging colleagues from all parties to sign up.

Update: 5 June 2013
I’ve been encouraging my fellow Labour MPs to apply for debates on this on this issue and, fortunately, my colleague from Middlesbrough Andy McDonald was successful in the weekly ballot. His 90 minute debate took place in the Commons ante-chamber Westminster Hall. You can read my speech here.

Update: 12 June 2013
I’ve issued a joint press release with Andy McDonald following the news that East Coast’s parent company – Directly Operated Railways – could be brought in to run the Great Western franchise.

Update: 20 June 2013
There wasn’t enough time for all interested MPs to speak in the Westminster Hall debate and the response of Government Minister Simon Burns was inadequate. This prompted me to apply for a further debate, this time through the Backbench Business Committee, a group of MPs who can allocate debating time in the main Commons chamber. I made my pitch to the Committee on 11 June and the Committee very kindly granted a three hour debate on Thursday 20 June. On the same day former Labour Transport Secretary Lord Adonis was quoted in The Northern Echo arguing that East Coast should now remain in public hands, and Left Foot Forward carried a piece on Labour’s emerging transport policy.

Update: 24 June 2013
LabourList have also now commented on the future of the railways under a Labour.

Update: 27 June 2013
Unfortunately Simon Burns continued to ignore many of the points that were raised in the recent debate and so I focussed on this issue at Transport Questions.

Update: 3 July 2013
I raised East Coast again in a debate on the Transport Select Committee’s recent Rail 2020 report.

Update: 19 July 2013
Today I visited Waverley Station to meet East Coast staff and management. Along with Mark Lazarowicz MP, Ian Murray MP and lots of volunteers, we also spoke to passengers outside the station and encouraged them to sign my petition. We issued a joint press release afterwards, which you can see here.

Update: 13 August 2013
Mark Lazarowicz MP and I did another session outside Waverley today. You can see my press release here.

Update: 24 September 2013
This evening I spoke at a rally to Keep East Coast on Track at the Labour Party Conference. This was organised by Trade Unions and also included a speech from Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle MP.

Update: 30 September 2013
I’ve written another article for Progress, which you can access here.

Update: 18 October 2013
Today I did another campaign session at Waverley, this time with Sarah Boyack MSP, Mark Lazarowicz MSP and around 50 trade unionists (many from the RMT) and campaigners. You can see my subsequent press release here.

Update: 25 October 2013
The Government has today published its prospectus for the privatisation of East Coast. I’ve circulated a press release in response and this can be found on my website.

Update: 9 January 2014
I spoke in a debate on intercity rail investment, focussing on the impact that prioritising the East Coast franchise competition has had on private investment in other intercity lines. You can read my speech here and I produced a summary of my arguments for the think-tank Progress.

Update: 17 January 2014
The Government today announced the three shortlisted bidders for the East Coast franchise – First, Virgin (with the backing of Stagecoach), and a joint venture between Eurostar and Keolis. You can read more about this on the Government’s website.

Update: 8 October 2014
On a related note the Scottish Government have today awarded the Scotrail contract to Abellio, a company owned by the dutch-state railway. Scottish Labour had called for the franchise competition to be suspended pending the likely devolution to the Scottish Parliament of the power to introduce a public sector operator. Unfortunately the SNP Scottish Government chose not to do so and I set out my reaction in a press release.

Update: 25 November 2014
Rumours suggest that the consortium of Eurostar and Keolis will be awarded the contract later this week, with profits being used to improve services between Paris and Lyon rather than London and Edinburgh. I’ve issued a press release with my reaction and this has been picked up in the Evening News and Herald amongst others.

Update: 27 November 2014
Contrary to earlier rumours, the Government have today announced that the successful bidder is Virgin and Stagecoach. Regardless of the fact the franchise has been awarded to British firms, it is highly disappointing profits will go to private companies, rather than to the exchequer, as happens at present. Again I’ve issued a press release with my thoughts, and this morning I debated this issue on BBC Radio 5Live with the editor of Rail Magazine, Nigel Harris (skip to around 8.20am here). There was also an urgent question in the House of Commons, but unfortunately there was insufficient time for me to ask a question.

Update: 28 February 2015
Today Virgin took over from East Coast. I issued a press release condemning the Government’s decision to press ahead with this unnecessary privatisation.