A trade union leader has called for the running of a rail line through Lancashire to be nationalised.
Bob Crowe, the firebrand general secretary of the RMT rail union, said confirmation the Government had a “mobilisation team” in place to take over the West Coast Main Line route in December was evidence the situation was “a shambolic farce.”
The Department for Transport confirmed on Tuesday its Directly Operated Railways division, which runs the East Coast Main Line from London to Aberdeen, had a team to take on the route as “a contingency measure.”
It comes as legal row between Virgin Trains and FirstGroup rumbles on over which firm will run the route when a new franchise agreement come into place on December 9.
Mr Crowe said: “Despite the denials only last week it is now clear that the West Coast Main Line mobilisation team is in place as the public sector is forced to rescue this privatisation shambles just as it has done on the East Coast.
“This whole wasteful, costly and shambolic farce has to stop now.
“If the public sector is the only show in town when things collapse into chaos then they should now be allowed to get on with the job on a permanent basis on both the East and West Coast and end this madness.
“It is little wonder that 70% of the public now support RMT’s call for renationalisation of the railways in the wake of the West Coast debacle.”
He added if Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson wins his court battle against the award of the franchise to First, it could lead to the entire tender decision being reviewed.
On Monday, West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper described both Virgin and First as “Dick Turpin” operators, invoking the famous 18th Century highway robber.
She told a debate in the House of Commons: “Personally I don’t care much about the name of the company that provides the service.
“My priority is to make sure the final decision is the best deal for both fare payers and tax payers.
“Recent franchise experiences have shown the highest bids, the riskiest bids, are not necessarily sustainable bids. The Government had even in this case admitted the successful bid for the West Coast Mainline is the riskiest bid.
“In recent years, a number of train operators have handed back the keys to the Government on franchises such as the East Coast Mainline.
“I believe MPs on all sides want to be sure this is not going to happen again and tax payers have assurances they will not be held to ransom by Dick Turpin train operators asking them to stand and deliver - having secured the contract on a bogus premise, taken their profits and scarpered.”
Pressed to clarify her remark, Ms Cooper added: “I think there are a lot of Dick Turpin-type figures about.”
Ms Cooper said she had little confidence in the projections made and used by the Department for Transport, particularly in light of wrong expectations for an uplift in revenue during the Olympic Games.
She said the Government had asked for trust in making the decision during the summer recess - but the West Lancashire MP said that trust needed to be earned.
Transport Minister Stephen Hammond said: “The Department for Transport believes the winning bid is deliverable, it believes it provides value for money for the taxpayer, for the passenger, and it capitalises on the £9 billion investment being made already in the West Coast Mainline, and the £18 billion the Government is continuing to invest.
“But nonetheless, there are lessons for the Government to learn from the mistakes of previous governments regarding the handing back of the keys, and the failure of certain people on the East Coast Mainline to deliver.
“We are acutely aware of some of those past franchise failures that we needed to learn some of the lessons from and in designing this franchise some of the recommendations, particularly the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee, have been taken into account following the failure on the east coast.
“Therefore we have provided and required a third party backed guarantee - that is the largest guarantee ever required.”
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Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 16 C
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Temperature: 11 C to 16 C
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