Fury as French firm set to take over East Coast

East Coast main line train crossing the Forth Bridge. Picture: Jane Barlow
East Coast main line train crossing the Forth Bridge. Picture: Jane Barlow
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AN MP has reacted angrily to reports that the UK’s only Government-run rail line is to be taken over by a consortium largely owned by the French state.

The UK Government has been anxious to return the London to Scotland East Coast main line to the private sector ever since it was taken over from National Express by the Department for Transport in 2009.

But now it is likely that this week’s announcement of a new private franchise will see the line, from next year, being run by joint bidders Eurostar and French transport company Keolis which is 70 per cent owned by state-run French rail company SNCF.

Opponents of the move to re-privatise the East Coast line have pointed out that the public-sector run company has made big returns to the Treasury during its tenure.

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One of those campaigning against the re-privatisation decision has been Edinburgh East MP Sheila Gilmore.

She said today: “Passengers recognise the improvements to services that East Coast have made under public ownership over the last few years. They also appreciate that at present, all profits are retained for the benefit of British passengers and taxpayers.

“But despite calls from Labour for these arrangements to continue in the long term, today we hear that East Coast is set to be privatised just before the next general election.”

She went on: “Ironically if the contract is awarded to Keolis - which is largely owned by the French Government - ticket revenue may well be reinvested in improved services. Unfortunately these will be services between places like Paris and Lyon or Marseille and Monaco, rather than Edinburgh and London.

“A future Labour Government would allow a public sector operator to bid for rail contracts, so that passengers and taxpayers always get value for money.”

A win for Eurostar/Keolis would mean disappointment for the other two bidders - FirstGroup and a joint venture between Virgin Trains and transport company Stagecoach.

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