After news broke that Ministers are pulling the plug on the East Coast rail line franchise after heavy losses for operators Stagecoach and Virgin, Chris Grayling has issued a further statement on his decision for the line’s future.
Grayling plans to terminate Virgin Trains East Coast’s contract on 24th June this year and on the same day start a new partnership, recreating the London North Eastern Railway.
Grayling said: “On that same day we will start with the launch of the new, long-term brand for the East Coast Mainline through the recreation of one of Britain’s iconic rail brands, the London North Eastern Railway (LNER).
“The team that has been working for me since last autumn to form the Operator of Last Resort will take immediate control of passenger services. They will then begin the task of working with Network Rail to bring together the teams operating the track and trains on the LNER network.
“I am creating a new board with an independent chair to oversee the operation of the LNER route and work with my department on building the new partnership. It will have representatives of both the train operating team and Network Rail, as well as independent members who will importantly ensure the interests of other operators on the route are taken into account. I will appoint an interim chair shortly, and then begin the recruitment process for a long term appointment.
“When it is fully formed the new LNER operation will be a partnership between the public and private sectors. In all circumstances ownership of the infrastructure will remain in the public sector, but the railway is at its strongest when it is a genuine partnership between public and private.
“The final structure of LNER will need to be shaped in conformity with the primary legislation which governs the industry. But my objective remains to move to a situation which leaves one single team operating the railway, with the simple goal of ensuring it continues the work that the existing operators have done in improving passenger services.”
He continued: I don’t want these changes to be of anxiety to passengers. I want to reassure them there will be no change to train services. The timetable will remain the same. Tickets purchased for future travel – including season tickets – will continue to be valid. And customers will continue to be able to book their travel in the normal way.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to reassure staff that the changes will not impact on their continued employment: it will be no different from a normal franchise change.”