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GOVERNMENT pledges to consider taking crisis-hit InterCity East Coast train services into public ownership are a sham, the RMT union said today.
The publicly owned operator that rescued the service in 2010, after its second collapse in private hands, has been wound down by the government and is probably incapable of mounting another rescue.
The InterCity East Coast franchise has been the most glaring example of rail privatisation failure.
After failing twice in private hands, it was taken over by government-owned Directly Operated Railways (DOR), which turned it into a success story, with £1 billion in surpluses for the Treasury and soaring customer satisfaction.
Following the success, the government privatised InterCity East Coast again, only for the third operator, Virgin Trains East Coast — a joint venture by Richard Branson’s company and Stagecoach — to throw in the towel, saying that it would quit the franchise in the middle of this year.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling now says he is considering public ownership as an option to save the service again.
But the RMT says that the winding-down of DOR makes the option at best “improbable.”
General secretary Mick Cash said: “Since Chris Grayling announced that the Virgin East Coast operation was being wound down due to a massive financial crisis, there has been a deafening silence from both him and his officials.
“Now we know why. The government have effectively cut loose their last remaining public-sector fall-back operation, hanging one of Britain’s main inter-city routes out to dry.
“This is mismanagement on a truly epic scale by the specialist in failure, Mr Grayling.”
Mr Cash said the solution was to “end the fixation with spivs and speculators” and renationalise all of Britain’s railways.
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