Combined Authority responds to Transport Secretary's East Coast Mainline announcement

Responding to the Transport Secretary’s confirmation that the East Coast Mainline franchise will end within months, Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council who speaks for the West Yorkshire Combined Authority on transport issues, said:

“Passengers will be angry and disappointed that the improvements to East Coast Mainline services they were promised have been put in doubt less than three years after this franchise began, the latest in a series of franchise failures on this line.

“This is a key transport link for business and the region’s tourism industry and we will urgently be seeking clarity from the Transport Secretary on how services on this line will be delivered in the short term and reassurances over the longer term plan for this vital route.”

In a statement to the Commons on Monday (5 February), Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said : “I have already informed the House that the franchise will in due course run out of money and will not last until 2020 but it has now been confirmed that the situation is much more urgent.

“It is now clear that this franchise will only be able to continue in its current form for a matter of a very small number of months and no more.”

Responding to concerns about the future of Virgin Trains' plans to invest £1.5 million in a scheme to create a first class lounge, two new shops and a new 'customer zone' at York Railway Station, Cllr Keith Wakefield, Chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee said: “Yesterday’s announcement by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling on East Coast Mainline threw into doubt a number of improvements that passengers have been led to believe are in the pipeline including additional services to additional trains to Bradford, Shipley and Harrogate, the deployment of new, faster trains and this refurbishment work at York station, which is among the top 20 busiest outside London.

“These enhancements to East Coast Mainline services are vital to the ongoing growth and prosperity of our region and we now need some confirmation from Mr Grayling about how they are going to be delivered and when.”

Mr Grayling said he would be using his rail franchising powers to protect the interests of passengers, preserve the interests of taxpayers by ensuring value for money and supporting investment and improvement, including the deployment of the new Intercity Express trains on the East Coast route.

In his statement Mr Grayling said: “At this stage, one of the options is to consider the possibility of Stagecoach continuing to operate services on the East Coast under a very strictly designed and short-term arrangement.

"However, given the circumstances in which the government is having to step in to protect passengers on this line, I am only prepared to consider this option on the basis that the franchise would be operated on a short-term, not-for-profit basis.

“The company cannot be allowed to continue running this franchise and making a profit given what has happened. They got their sums wrong and they will pay the price for that – not the taxpayer.

“The alternative option is that the East Coast franchise would be directly operated by the Department for Transport through an Operator of Last Resort.”

Link to the Transport Secretary's full statement (opens in new tab).

06 Feb 2018

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