The Department for Transport has failed Doncaster rail passengers over the running of the East Coast Mainline, says MP Caroline Flint, after the publication of the latest investigation into two rail franchises by the powerful Commons Public Accounts Committee.
“As someone who uses the East Coast Mainline every week, I know the staff I meet at the station and working on the trains have never been less than helpful, week in week out. Doncaster is a friendly, welcoming station. These staff, who have worked under different operators, deserve better. They deserve certainty about their future jobs and assurance that the Government cares about having a quality rail service for passengers. In recent years, the Government has let them down.”
“The East Coast franchise has had a troubled history, and our Committee looked at why the Virgin contract was terminated early. We found that the Department failed to learn the lessons of previous failures and allowed train operators to promise more than they could deliver.”
The East Coast franchise was awarded in 2015 and intended to run up to 2023 by a private partnership. Instead, in November 2017, the Government confirmed the franchise contract would be cut short.
Said Caroline Flint: “This is a catalogue of failure. We found the Government was too ambitious about rail franchising – overlooked the poor state of the rail network infrastructure; was unconcerned about possible industrial action and failed to have a constructive relationship with the rail unions.”
East Coast is run by the Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), a VirginTrains-Stagecoach joint venture. The Committee found that the DfT had failed to learn the lessons of past failures. The current operators were handed the contract to run the franchise in 2015 when it came out of public ownership following National Express’s default on the line in 2009.
Said Caroline: “Already, we have the risk that the DfT could terminate its contract with VTEC, yet award the operators with the same franchise in the future,” the report added. “The way the rail franchises have been managed has been unacceptable. Doncaster’s hardworking commuters and passengers need a reliable rail service. If the Government cannot get the East Coast Mainline running well, how on earth are we to believe they can cope with the UK’s huge fragmented collection of franchises across the whole network?”