A Teesside MP has warned that the Government’s Transport Ministry may look to replace Northern Rail’s Pacer trains with equally ageing former London Underground trains.
Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has joined in calls for improvements on routes served by the trains, which go no faster than 60mph on Northern and Trans-Pennine Express routes.
Easington MP Grahame Morris has called for a firm commitment from the Government on replacing the “outdated, uncomfortable and cramped” trains after Chancellor George Osborne said the re-franchising of the East Coast mainline next year would include “a substantial package of upgrades including new services and modern trains”.
Now Mr Blenkinsop, who uses the trains which operate from Middlesbrough and Darlington to Nunthorpe and Saltburn, said:
“The influential railway industry source, the Rail Business Intelligence Bulletin has become aware of a proposal to convert London Underground District Line D78 units – that were already 30-years-old and being decommissioned by London Underground – into diesel engine carriage sets for use on North of England commuter lines like the ones in my constituency.”
Mr Blenkinsop said the only winner if a deal was brokered would be London Mayor Boris Johnson “who will get a Christmas present of some cash for trains he was going to scrap anyway”.
“This worries me as a local rail service user, we don’t want to see veteran trains replaced by equally ageing old London Underground trains which will be nothing more than vintage carriages with a diesel engine bolted on to them.
“I have a simple message to coalition transport ministers – just get rid of the Pacers.
“They are an embarrassment to our rail system and the regular commuters who have to be sardined in them on a daily basis.
“Give people on Teesside the longer trains and comfortable carriages enjoyed in the south. Only then will you see passenger numbers really increase on local routes instead of today’s steady decay.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 16 Dec 2014
> Bit of a suprise… everyone seemed to expect the French bid to win.
Virgin Trains and Stagecoach have won the franchise to run the East Coast mainline rail route, it emerged this morning.
The controversial takeover has seen the firms promise to invest £140m in the route over eight years, and will pay the government £3.3bn for the contract.
Rail Minister Claire Perry is expected to be at Newcastle Central Station today and the franchise, which covers the route between London and Edinburgh, has been publicly run since 2009.
The anticipated move was lambasted by Labour MPs in the North East, after the publicly-run Directed Operated Railways brought the line back into profit.
Ahead of this morning’s decision, Dave Anderson, Blaydon’s Labour MP, said:
“This shows the real contempt that this coalition feels for the people of the North.
“We have seen continuing failures by private companies in running our line over the period since privatisation until the public sector stepped back in and stopped the rot and we have seen increased punctuality accompanied by increased usage by the travelling public which has delivered the best economic performance of any UK train service.
“This counts for nothing in the world of Conservative dogma. It shows, yet again, that this Government will ignore the wishes of anyone as it steams ahead with its ideological attack on the public sector in our country.”
East Coast paid a record £235m back to the Government in its final full year in public hands – up 12% on the previous year. Proof, unions believe, that a private sector deal is politically-motivated.
Grahame Morris, Easington MP, dismissed the privatisation of the line this week as “right wing Tory dogma”.
He said: “This public-run rail franchise has generated over a billion pounds for the Treasury.
“If this is what a publicly-run train operating franchise can deliver, at a time when every penny counts, we should be looking at ways to bring privately run railways back into public ownership not the other way round.
“This is right wing Tory dogma being put ahead of the best interests of the service, consideration for passengers and the public finances.
“The public-run East Coast Main Line franchise has consistently been the best performing franchise when it comes to passenger and staff satisfaction, fares and profitability.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Nov 2014
> If you have a state-run organization that is doing its job well and is making money for the country, what do you do ?
Leave it alone to get on with it ? Of course not, you sell it off to private enterprise. Or at least you do if you’re a British government…
A fresh round of protests against the re-privatisation of the East Coast mainline are being planned after it emerged it has paid £235m back to the Government this year.
The figure means that since the line returned to public hands after the collapse of the privately run National Express franchise in 2009, it has generated £1bn in revenue for public coffers.
Despite this, the re-privatisation process will see a new franchise bidder chosen in November. It will then take over its running from Directly Operated Railways in March next year.
Rail union RMT said the £235m figure, an increase of 12% on last year, makes a mockery of the Government’s plans to “bulldoze through a re-privatisation before the next election”.
It says the Government is ignoring the financial and operational success of DOR and the “catastrophic impact of two previous private sector failures on the line”.
The RMT pointed out that the short-listed bidders for the re-privatisation included other European state rail operators, notably Keolis which is tied in with the French state railways.
“This proves once again that the Government are happy to have state control of our main inter-city routes as long as it’s not the British state,” said an RMT spokesman.
He added: “We’re looking to organise a whole range of protests at stations on the East Coast mainline, including those in the North East.”
Meanwhile RMT Acting General Secretary Mick Cash commented: “It is a national disgrace that the Government are continuing with their plans to bulldoze through the re-privatisation of the East Coast Main Line despite the latest figures showing that it is handing massive sums back to the British people while delivering huge improvements in service and customer satisfaction.
“It is simply ludicrous to even contemplate re-privatisation when not only have there been two previous private sector failures on the East Coast route but when the public-sector rescue operation has been such a stunning success.
“While public ownership puts money back into the coffers that can be reinvested in our railways the private operators suck out colossal sums in subsidies and profits – that’s what privatisation means.
“The plans to hand this profitable and successful public rail operation back to the vultures are based purely on hard-right political ideology and RMT is committed to continuing the fight to block them up to polling day and beyond.”
Following privatisation of the railways in the 1990s, GNER was awarded the East Coast franchise in April 1996, to run what had been the InterCity East Coast division of British Rail.
However, in December 2006, the Department for Transport announced that it was to terminate GNER’s franchise to operate the East Coast main line after it ran into financial difficulties.
In August 2007 it was announced National Express Group had been awarded the franchise, operating under the name of National Express East Coast. However in July 2009 it said it would not be able to financially support its East Coast franchise beyond the end of 2009 when it returned to publics hands.
The three shortlisted bidders for the 393 mile route between London and Edinburgh are:
:: East Coast Trains Ltd (First Group plc)
:: Keolis/Eurostar East Coast Limited (Keolis (UK) Limited and Eurostar International Limited)
:: Inter City Railways Limited (Stagecoach Transport Holdings Limited and Virgin Holdings Limited)
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 04 Aug 2014
Better rail links between Middlesbrough and London could generate almost £6m a year in extra revenue to the town’s economy.
Vital improvements are needed to the town’s rail links, which are the “poorest rail service to London of any city” in the UK except for Bradford, according to a new report.
The review by the Middlesbrough Council‘s highways and transportation manager Derek Gittins “conservatively estimates” the introduction of a direct Middlesbrough to London service every two hours could generate upwards of £5.8m a year in extra revenue.
Of the largest 20 cities and towns in the UK outside London, only Bradford and Huddersfield – which has no service – don’t have a better service to London than Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald is among those who has campaigned for rail improvements, saying it is an “extremely important issue for the region”.
A Middlesbrough Council executive meeting heard that in 2013/14 there were 1.37 million passengers at Middlesbrough railway station.
In the last five years rail improvements have been made to stations across the town including new lifts at Middlesbrough station and better waiting facilities at Marton, Gypsy Lane and Nunthorpe.
A new station behind James Cook University Hospital has recently opened to serve the hospital, new housing developments and sports village and to ease congestion on Marton Road.
The bids from rail operators to run the East Coast Mainline franchise from March 2015 have been submitted to the Department for Transport.
Contained within the invitation to tender is an option to include a direct train service from Middlesbrough to London.
Eaglescliffe, Hartlepool and Darlington are the closest stations to Middlesbrough which currently have a direct link to the capital.
The Department for Transport has established a joint Electrification Task Force with infrastructure manager Network Rail to study options for further electrification in the north.
The executive agreed to support the drive for improved rail services for Middlesbrough and the wider Teesside area, specifically for a direct service to London; improve connectivity via the North Transpennine route; and support the case for electrification.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 24 July 2014