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Jeremy Corbyn to join rally for a public railway

Conrad Landin reports from Edinburgh

JEREMY CORBYN will join a rally outside Kings Cross today as campaigners picket stations to demand an end to the private rail racket after the East Coast Mainline was taken into “fake public ownership.”

The flagship London to Edinburgh route was taken over by a consortium led by the Engineering giant Arup yesterday, because the Tories have even privatised the vehicle for rescuing failed private operators.

New research by the We Own It campaign reveals today that Arup, in partnership with Ernst and Young and SNC-Lavalin, was paid over £2 million for advice about the line in the six months before the handover from private firms Stagecoach and Virgin.

The collapse of Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), which prompted a £2 billion government bailout, is the third time a private operator of the route has failed since the Tories sold off Britain’s railways.

Rail workers will demonstrate outside Edinburgh Waverley station, near where their union RMT is holding its annual general meeting, from 7.30am this morning.

At London Kings Cross, the other end of the East Coast route, Labour leader Mr Corbyn will demand that all train franchises be renationalised.

Manchester campaigners meanwhile will protest outside a northern transport summit at the Deansgate Hotel from 8am, where beleaguered Tory Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was due to speak until he cancelled on Friday.

And over 200 constituency Labour parties are organising leafleting sessions across the country, where activists clad in Chris Grayling masks will target commuters.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Britain's railways are in crisis and the responsibility for that rests with the rotten private franchising system and the profiteering, short-termism and fragmentation it brings with it.

"In Edinburgh we will be ramming home the point that after three private sector failures the routes should be made public on a permanent basis and in Manchester we will be shining the light on the continued failures of the shambolic Northern franchise."

Mr Corbyn said: “The East Coast Mainline and all other lines should be run in the interests of passengers and taxpayers, not private profit.

“Passengers, our economy and our environment need affordable fares and reliable services, which Tory policy is failing to deliver.

“The next Labour government will take our railways back into public ownership as franchises expire, using savings to cap fares, and would upgrade and expand the rail network.”

The new operator of the route is called London North Eastern Railway (LNER) — echoing the name of the “Big Four” company that ran the line prior to nationalisation in 1948.

But anyone meeting the new boss will find he’s the same as the old boss. David Horne, who headed VTEC, insisted this morning that continuing in the top job with the rescue vehicle was “absolutely the right thing to do.”

He said: “The fact I'm transferring and everybody in the company is transferring will give us stability so we can remain focused on ensuring that we continue to deliver a successful train service for our customers.”

But Mr Cash said: “The only stable period in the past two decades came under the publicly owned [operator which took over the franchise in 2009].

“What we need now is permanent public ownership and not some short-term lash-up as a holding operation before Chris Grayling gives another bunch of spivs and speculators a spin of the wheel.”


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