MP backs petition to halt rail route re-privatisation

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WANSBECK MP Ian Lavery has thrown his weight behind a national campaign to keep the East Coast Mainline in public hands.

A 23,000-name petition has now been collected from rail users, campaign groups and politicians demanding a halt to Government plans to re-privatise the route, which passes through Morpeth.

Mr Lavery said: “Anything other than keeping the East Coast Mainline in public hands when since 2009 it has paid back £602million in premium payments is outrageous.

“East Coast Mainline should not only remain in public hands, but should be used as a model for moving over other lines to public ownership as their franchises come to an end.”

The London to Scotland route was taken over by Directly Operated Railways four years ago after operator National Express handed the franchise back to the Government.

This week it was announced that DOR has paid back £209million to the public purse in the last year.

The petition will be handed over to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin on Friday, and on Tuesday, November 5, a series of activities will take place at stations along the line to highlight the contribution it makes to communities.

An Early Day Motion congratulating East Coast staff for improving services and calling on the Government to scrap plans to re-privatise the line has been tabled by Edinburgh MP Sheila Gilmour and signed by Mr Lavery.

Organisations backing the campaign include the Trades Union Congress, Action for Rail, We Own It and Bring Back British Rail.

We Own It spokeswoman Cat Hobbs said: “The Government needs to call a halt to this reckless gamble with a successful and publicly-run business which has handed over £600million back to HM Treasury.

“We hope that the Secretary of State will listen to more than 23,000 East Coast users who are sending him a direct message of hands off our railway.”