UK Government to Take Over Stricken Rail Line

A Virgin train at York station

Stagecoach Group will hand back operation of the East Coast Main Line to the government, the train operator has said.

VTEC was awarded the East Coast Main Line franchise for eight years following a bidding process in 2014.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the House of Commons this afternoon that no decision had yet been taken on the future of the Great Northern franchise, but that Great Northern services coming out of London King's Cross might be merged into LNER.

Grayling said that while there'll be no nationalization, East Coast will be recast as a partnership between public and private sectors.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced in November that the franchise would have to be replaced in 2020 - three years earlier than Stagecoach and Virgin Trains' contract was due to end - after the rail companies said they would fall into financial trouble if they kept the franchise.

There will be a short transition, so any passengers should carry on using Virgin Trains East Coast's customer and ticket booking services.

But Stagecoach reported losses on the line and in November previous year Mr Grayling announced that the franchise would be terminated in 2020 to enable it to become a public-private railway.

Chris Grayling on a visit to York last week
Chris Grayling on a visit to York last week

It is the third private operator to fail to complete its full term in running services on the route.

"We believe our plans offered a positive, value-for-money way forward for passengers, taxpayers and local communities, ensuring the continuation of the exciting transformation already underway on East Coast and a smooth transition to the Government's new East Coast Partnership".

"However, we respect the Government's decision".

Stagecoach pledged to "work constructively with the officials and the OLR in the weeks ahead to ensure a "professional transfer to the new arrangements".

"Three times in under a decade, private companies have failed on the East Coast".

"After three shambolic private sector failures on the east coast, the message should now sink in that these cowboys can not be trusted and should be locked out of the system on a permanent basis".

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