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The troubled history of the East Coast rail franchise

17 May 2018

East Coast is now the top-rated franchised train service in Great Britain - with 92 per cent overall satisfaction with the last journey in the latest National Rail Passenger Survey.

United Kingdom government will take back control of the running of the rail route between London and Edinburgh from private operator Stagecoach (temporarily) after the company failed to make the contract work financially. It will be rebranded as the London and North Eastern Railway.

Despite this, Grayling denied it was a "failing railway" and insisted taxpayers had not lost out, claiming "the route continues to generate substantial returns for the Government". It is not a failing railway. "We can not be ignored".

Stagecoach said it and Virgin had been negotiating for a new contract with the Department for Transport but that it understood Mr Grayling was "no longer considering" them for the deal. "But the organisations have paid a high financial and reputational price for what has happened".

Speaking to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling defended the government's handling of the service.

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

Ms Flint said: "Shouldn't there be a outcome from this and Virgin and Stagecoach should be denied bidding for other franchises?"

It's not the plan, but it's possible.

The government says the timetable won't change - and all tickets for future travel will still be valid.

So who will now run the trains?

What will the impact be for passengers?

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New trains are due to arrive later this year.

How much will it cost the public?

The TSSA chief said "neither Virgin nor Stagecoach should never again be awarded a public contract in Britain". Stagecoach promised vastly more, £3.3bn by 2023, but found it impossible to pay up.

The former transport secretary's called Grayling decision "indefensible" with the benefits only going to the "billionaire owners of these companies and their shareholders".

He added: "However, we respect the Government's decision".

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"Franchising remains at the heart of the alleged partnership". "[The Conservatives] are defending a broken system at the passengers expense". The chair of the Commons Transport Committee Lilian Greenwood said it was "a very sorry tale". "If Virgin-Stagecoach got their figures wrong, so did the government", said Greenwood.

Labour MP for Bradford South Judith Cummins said the whole saga "smacks of a pattern of failure and incompetence" and Mr Grayling as Transport Secretary "should take responsibility".

The original franchise was signed in 2015 but poor passenger numbers and revenues meant heavy losses for the partnership - some £200 million.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told Parliament that temporary state ownership would provide the smoothest transition to a new operator.

The UK Government's decision yesterday to replace the Stagecoach-dominated Virgin Trains East Coast (Vtec) with a public sector "operator of last resort" hardly came out of the blue, but the firm still expressed its surprise and disappointment.

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The troubled history of the East Coast rail franchise