A fresh crisis could be looming for the troubled east coast intercity train route linking Aberdeen and Inverness to London because the UK Government lacks the capability to re-nationalise the franchise, a union leader has claimed.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash warned the “public sector lifeboat” had been “cut loose” by the winding down of the Directly Operated Railways operation, set up to run franchises brought back into public ownership.
Mr Cash’s claims were dismissed as “nonsense” by the Department for Transport (DfT).
Transport Minister Chris Grayling raised the possibility of re-nationalisation this month when he told MPs the contract, operated by Stagecoach and Virgin Group joint venture Virgin Trains East Coast, would only last in its current form for a “small number of months”.
Mr Cash said there had been a “deafening silence” from the minister and officials since, adding: “Now we know why – the government have effectively cut loose their last remaining public sector fallback operation, hanging one of Britain’s main inter city routes out to dry.”
A DfT spokesman said options for the franchise up to 2020 included it being directly run by the department through an “operator of last resort.” He added: “We maintain a full capability to operate rail services if a franchise ends and it is nonsense to suggest otherwise.
“Directly Operated Railways was stood down as a full-time operation in December 2015 because it would be a complete waste of taxpayers’ money to have a full-time operation in place when not required.”