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East Coast Main Line to return to public control

Franchise handed back as Virgin branded service fails to make money.

East Coast Main Line to return to public control

Train services operating under the Virgin Trains East Coast banner are to be brought back under public control, the Transport Secretary has confirmed.

Virgin Trains' contract to operate the service is now set to be terminated on June 24th, after which time the government intends to use its powers as the 'operator of last resort' to maintain services.

Secretary Chris Grayling delivered the news as he made a statement to the House of Commons this lunchtime. He said he would be resurrecting the long-defunct London and North East Railway name for the new service.

The East Coast service has been operated by Virgin Trains East Coast, a joint venture between Stagecoach (90%) and Virgin (10%), since the companies won an eight-year franchise from the government in 2014. They claim the franchise has lost in the region of £260 million since taking over from the previous state-owned East Coast operator.

Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash told Sky News, "This is the second time that the Government have called upon the public sector to launch a rescue operation on the East Coast Main Line and instead of being a temporary arrangement Chris Grayling should listen to his staff and the public and make it permanent.

The Secretary said the long-term future for the line involves the new LNER evolving into a joint public/private partnership. 

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First published at 13:55 on Wednesday, May 16th, 2018.