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PROTESTS took place at railway stations across Britain yesterday against the government’s “big Branson bailout” of rail privateer Virgin-Stagecoach after it abandoned its East Coast franchise.
The franchise will end three years early, leaving the taxpayer to pick up an estimated £2 billion bill.
Protests organised by the We Own It campaign and supported by rail union RMT took place at Kings Cross in London, Bristol Temple Meads, Manchester Piccadilly, Edinburgh Waverly, Milton Keynes and Redhill stations yesterday morning.
The union branded the government’s intervention the “big Branson bailout” in a swipe at Virgin founder and notorious tax-dodger Sir Richard Branson.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash joined the Kings Cross protesters.
“The £2bn East Coast bailout is just another scandal embroiling this rotten government and adds to the growing charge sheet of waste and incompetence,” he said.
“There is no way the taxpayer should be picking up the tab for this latest East Coast scandal. The line should be taken back into public ownership.”
The East Coast Main Line runs from London to Edinburgh.
Virgin-Stagecoach, which won the franchise when it was reprivatised in 2015, is the third privateer to hit the buffers while operating the service.
Previous operators GNER and National Express also dumped the franchise early after failing to make profits.
The only operator to make a success of the service was publicly owned Directly Operated Railways (DOR), which ran the service from 2009 to 2015, after National Express’s failure.
DOR returned a profit of more than £1bn to the Treasury while operating the service — then the Tory government privatised it again.
RMT is heading a campaign for all British rail services to be nationalised.
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