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Awarding of East Coast Rail Franchise

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I am very disappointed with the announcement that Richard Branson’s Virgin and Stagecoach have been awarded the franchise for the East Coast Line over the next 8 years.

I have spoken directly to commuters on the East Coast Line and talked to them about their views. This and other surveys and online polls clearly show that a majority of people want to see the line stay in public hands – even Conservative voters would prefer this. Run for the last 5 years by the Department of Transport, the line was making a profit for the treasury, whereas the previous two private franchises ended in abject failure. It makes absolutely no sense for this discredited Government to risk our services just for political dogma.

The Conservatives may well say that we could potentially see £3bn returned to Treasury coffers but equally, if past experience is anything to go by, we may see nothing at all.

I am also bitterly disappointed that although Sunderland is being promised a connection by December 2015, Thornaby and Middlesbrough passengers have to wait until 2020.

Had the DoT or a mutual, co-operative or not-for-profit been allowed to bid for and run the franchise who knows what extra services they would have promised? We could potentially have seen this date brought forward considerably. But irrespective of that, our MP should never have accepted the position where Thornaby and Middlesbrough will lag five years behind Sunderland.

With his unqualified support for the privatisation of the franchise, James Wharton MP has let Teesside commuters down.

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