ON Monday the government announced a new timetable of competitions to decide which companies run which train services across the UK over the next ten years.
The big headline from the announcement was that the competition for the East Coast Main Line – which links Edinburgh with Newcastle, York and London – had been brought forward so that a new private operator would be in charge from February 2015 – three months before the next general election.
When the previous operator, National Express, collapsed in 2009, the then Labour government took over running services. And while at the time this was seen as a temporary measure, the success of East Coast – with improved services, and profits being kept for public benefit rather than shareholders’ – has highlighted the advantages of keeping this line – whisper it – nationalised.
So Labour pledged that, should we win in 2015, East Coast would be kept in public hands. Having heard this, Tory ministers are now trying to throw a spanner in the works by rushing to re-privatise services.
In private Tory ministers know their privatisation of the railways in the 90s has failed. And yet in public those same ministers insist that private is best. I know many passengers couldn’t care less who runs them, as long as they’re on time.
But East Coast has highlighted the benefits of a publicly-run railway. That’s why along with my fellow Edinburgh MPs Mark Lazarowicz and Ian Murray, I’ve started a campaign to stop the privatisation plans. You can sign my petition at www.sheilagilmore.co.uk/EastCoastMainLine.
• Sheila Gilmore is MP for Edinburgh East