Keep East Coast line in public sector, MP urges

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THE franchise for the East Coast rail line should be kept in public hands rather than returned to the private sector, says Edinburgh North and Leith Labour MP Mark Lazarowicz.

The line was taken into public hands in 2009 after National Express pulled out. But from December next year the UK Government wants a new operator to take it over.

Mr Lazarowicz said: “The East Coast rail line is a vital route not just for Edinburgh but for many other communities along its line. It has been run for the last three years as a publicly owned company, and I question the need for it to be returned to the private sector.

“There was an unhappy history with the previous private franchise, and I see no reason why the service could not continue to be publicly operated.”

He said any new private operator would naturally want to make a profit from the service. “That must inevitably come at the expense either of passenger fares, government subsidy, or both.

“If this government is unwilling to keep the operation of the line in public hands, then it should consider offering the franchise to a mutually owned or similar cooperative-style company, which could involve passengers’ representatives, communities and local councils along the route, and workers from the industry.”