Labour: Let’s Work Together To Make East Coast Public
Labour is calling for a cross-party alliance to ensure the East Coast Main Line is publicly owned and out of the hand of Brian Souter and Stagecoach.
Following a meeting in Edinburgh between Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald MP and Shadow Connectivity Secretary Colin Smyth MSP with transport workers, the party has declared that it will use every possible mechanism to ensure that East Coast doesn’t fall back into the hands of profiteers who drive up ticket costs and cut corners for their workers' safety, like in the ongoing dispute between the TSSA and Scotrail over CCTV monitoring.
The Stagecoach ownership of the line was cancelled by the UK government after it emerged that Brian Souter’s company had juggled the numbers to win the bid. The company is now set to lose over £200 million - but that doesn’t mean it won’t win the contract again on new terms. Former transport minister Lord Adonis accused Transport Minister Chris Grayling of carrying out an “unjustified bailout” of the failing company, and said that the tendering process was being purposely mishandled:
"The reason for these disgraceful bailouts we've been seeing from Mr Grayling is because he simply is not prepared to contemplate putting his duty above ideology and substituting for failing private companies a state company."
Labour is urging the Scottish government to publicly back the call and have a firm commitment to public ownership of the railways. At the very least there is an expectation that they must oppose the contract returning to Stagecoach.
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Andy McDonald said:
“We cannot continue with a broken railway system that rewards failure. Rail franchising is discredited and disintegrating. It is time the SNP government was clear – the East Coast Main Line should go back into public hands.
“Only Labour will ensure a fully nationalised rail network so that every train that rolls through Scotland’s stations is run for the benefit of the public, not to line the pockets of shareholders.”
Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Connectivity Colin Smyth said:
“The SNP government must finally break its silence and back public ownership of the East Coast Main Line.
“Humza Yousaf can no longer hide behind weasel words around supporting a public option – he needs to be clear that he supports public ownership.
“There is an opportunity here to build a cross-party, cross-border alliance and put pressure on the Tory government to hand East Coast back to the people.
“If the Scottish Government cannot bring itself to support the nationalisation of our railways it must at least agree that Stagecoach should be barred from bidding for the route again. Having mismanaged the route so badly, East Coast should be kept out of Brian Souter’s hands.”
Note: This article was amended to clarify the threat private companies pose to public transport workers in pursuing the bottom line.