SNP minister calls for Stagecoach to be '˜punished' over east coast mainline

MPs are to probe the collapse of the Stagecoach-Virgin East Coast rail franchise '“ as Scotland's Transport Secretary called for the company to be 'punished'.

An east coast mainline train departs from Waverley station in Edinburgh

Amid growing demands for services on the East Coast mainline to be nationalised, the Commons transport committee will hold an inquiry to establish how the franchise has come within months of going bust, potentially forcing the UK Government to step 
in.

UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the franchise holder, which is 90 per cent owned by Sir Brian Souter’s Perth-based Stagecoach Group, could be allowed to continue running Edinburgh-London services on a non-profit basis or be replaced by a publicly-owned operator.

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Transport Secretary Humza Yousaf said calls from Labour for wholesale renationalisation of the railways were “simplistic” but added that “every option should be explored” to resolve the crisis.

Mr Yousaf said: “I’ve got no loyalty whatsoever to Stagecoach, nor do I have any sympathy to them.

“Stagecoach should be punished, that punishment should be meted out to them. The First Minister was clear… that they have very, very 
serious questions to answer.”

However, he said the Scottish Government would be legally obliged to consider a bid by Stagecoach to run Scotrail when the current contract expires in 2025.

It is the third time a commercial franchise on the East Coast route has collapsed in just over a decade.

Lilian Greenwood, the transport committee chairwoman, said: “There are serious questions to be asked of the train operator, Network Rail and ministers and the transport committee intends to ask them.

“The failure of the East Coast franchise has wider implications for rail franchising and the competitiveness of the current system. Lessons need to be learned by all concerned.”

MPs on the committee will examine lessons to be learned from the current crisis and previous franchise failures, as well as the best way forward for the East Coast mainline and the wider implications for the rail franchising system.

Mr Yousaf said: “I’ve got no loyalty whatsoever to Stagecoach, nor do I have any sympathy to them.

“Stagecoach should be punished, that punishment should be meted out to them. The First Minister was clear… that they have very, very 
serious questions to answer.”