York Green Party

East Coast franchise award a triumph of "political dogma"

27 November 2014

The government has ignored a clearly-expressed wish for the East Coast line to remain in public ownership and instead will hand its profits to shareholders, says York Green Party's candidate for York Central, Jonathan Tyler.

The decision has been announced today to hand the East Coast Main Line franchise to two private companies led by very rich people. The line has been in public ownership for the past four years since it was given up by National Express, who were unable to maintain the payments to the government promised in their bid. Optimistic forecasts figure yet again.

The Green Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for York Central, Jonathan Tyler, has had a long career in the railway industry1. He said:

"After two failures of private companies, the present management has shown conclusively that the public sector can deliver a service every bit as good as the private sector. The continual uncertainty of franchising is damaging both for the service and for the staff who deliver it. This ideological obsession cannot provide the integrated national system that is essential if the country is to reduce its dependence on carbon-emitting road vehicles while securing mobility for every citizen".

The current public-sector operator was barred from bidding for the franchise, a feature of the 1993 Railways Act that the Green Party has been campaigning to repeal – and now shown to be absurd since profits from the line will leach away to shareholders instead of being used for reinvestment in Britain's railway.

"Once again, political dogma has trumped public opinion. Current contempt for politics springs in part from the way people feel their views are ignored, and here the Government has cast aside a clearly-expressed preference for the route to remain in public ownership."

For York in particular, Mr Tyler highlights two threats to be checked in the small print:

  • whether there is a commitment to retain the company's headquarters in the City, and
  • the possibility of another attempt to install ticket barriers that would close off our magnificent station as a public space, ignoring the patent and costly failure of the gating of London King's Cross.

Despite a consistent majority of public opinion in favour of returning the UK rail network to public ownership2, and evidence that it could save the taxpayer £1.2 billion per year3, the Green Party is the only significant party calling for renationalisation.


  1. Jonathan Tyler joined British Rail as a Traffic Apprentice in 1962. He became a British-Rail sponsored university lecturer and since 1983 has run a York-based consultancy called Passenger Transport Networks, specialising in strategic timetabling.
  2. A YouGov survey in November 2013 for the Centre for Labour and Social Studies found that two-thirds of voters would like to see the railways renationalised. A poll by GfK NOP in September 2012 found 70% in favour.
  3. A saving "through cheaper borrowing costs, removing shareholders' dividends and reducing fragmentation" - from the "Rebuilding Rail" report from the Transport for Quality of Life thinktank (http://www.transportforqualityoflife.com/policyresearch/publictransport/).


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