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Action Stations

20 August 2013

Members, passengers and MPs speak out all along the East Coast route

Two recent action days have seen TSSA members and allies opposing the sell-off of the East Coast franchise, which the government want to see return to a private-sector bidder by February 2015. Polls show the public want the route kept in public ownership by a ratio of 3:1, and even amongst Conservative voters, only 28 per cent support re-privatisation.

With the Labour leadership proposing to keeping East Coast in public ownership as a comparator by which private franchises could be judged, TSSA worked with Unite, Aslef and the Labour Party to initiate a highly successful day of speaking to the public and local media right along the route on 21 June.

This was soon followed by a further series of TSSA-supported actions convened by the TUC’s Action for Rail, with the protests at 11 East Coast stations on 1 August. See page 4 for a report of this ‘Yorkshire Day’ action.

Here is just a sample of the activity that has been going on right up the line.

Aberdeen
Dame Anne Begg, MP Aberdeen South is one of dozens of MPs who have signed the parliamentary motion (EDM 58) which says the plan to privatise the route ‘puts ideology ahead of the interests of passengers and taxpayers’ and ‘calls on the Government to abandon its plans to re-privatise East Coast.’
You can ask your MP to sign the motion via www.tssa.org.uk/eastcoastcampaign.

Edinburgh
Edinburgh East’s MP Sheila Gilmore has been leading a campaign in parliament to stop the privatisation of the route. She says, ‘Tory ministers are embarrassed about the success of a publicly operated railway. The next Labour government should go further than just preserving East Coast as a public operator: the remaining private franchises could be allowed to run their course.’
Mark Lazarowicz, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith says ‘East Coast has achieved success under public operation, receiving less subsidy than any of the other 18 private franchises and paying back more to the taxpayer than all but one. Ministers should now drop their plans for privatisation to give East Coast stability so it can plan for the future.’

Newcastle
Half a dozen Tyneside MPs gathered to give TSSA’s leaflet to passengers. Sharon Hodgson (second from right), MP for Washington and Sunderland West says that ‘As a regular user of the service I know firsthand that there have been real improvements under public ownership. Unfortunately, it looks like ministers would rather see profits on tickets end up in the pockets of shareholders than used to keep the improvements on track.’

Duraham
Graham Morris, MP for Easington, vehemently defends public ownership of East Coast: ‘It’s ours, don’t give it away! If privatised, the profits will once again line shareholders pockets, rather than be given back to the tax-paying travelling public.’

Pat Glass MP for North West Durham recalls ‘This is the third time that the franchise has been offered for tender, but it has failed in private ownership twice before. It has proven to be very successful as a publicly owned company.’

Ian Mearns MP for Gateshead says, ‘The government’s motives are entirely ideological. East Coast should remain where the bulk of the travelling public want it – in state ownership.’
 


Keep East Coast public: A grand day in Yorkshire

Dan Jarvis, MP for Barnsley Central joins the action in Leeds.

MPs Rosie Winterton (Doncaster Central) and John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) join campaigners in Doncaster.

The campaign to retain the East Coast franchise in public ownership has been growing rapidly, with actions taking place right up the line.

One recent highlight was on Yorkshire Day – the first day of August – with TSSA members in the county taking the opportunity to speak to passengers and the local media about the campaign. TSSA executive member Andi Fox reports, ‘Yorkshire Day is to celebrate all the good things about our county – and one of those is definitely the East Coast’.

‘At my home station of Doncaster we were delighted to be joined by two local MPs – Rosie Winterton and John Healey – plus Labour Party members, who turned out in force. The local radio station interviewed us, spreading the message to thousands. The support from the public was amazing – we handed out over 2,000 leaflets, with passengers reacting with disbelief that the government could even think of selling off East Coast when it’s successful and making money. The reception was really uplifting and spurred us on to plan more campaigning. A massive Yorkshire thank-you to all who helped.’

Wakefield
Activist Nicola Jukes represents TSSA at the Action for Rail national community group meetings, helping build an alliance for public ownership – starting with East Coast!

Wakefield’s MP, Mary Creagh said, ‘The East Coast mainline is making money for the taxpayer. Instead of selling it off Ministers should focus on sorting out the chaos in the franchising system.’

Retford
Local Councillor Ian Campbell is working with TSSA to build public meetings on the government’s refranchising plan. Our network of reps in Retford, Newark Northgate and Grantham are building links with local groups to support public ownership.

Newark

Shadow Rail Minister and MP for Nottingham South Lilian Greenwood joined campaigners at Newark North Gate. She reports, ‘People I met tell me that they are happy with the improved services that they are seeing, but that there is more that needs to be done. We can only guarantee further improvements to the East Coast rail line if we ensure that every pound of profit continues to be reinvested and is not shared with shareholders.’

Peterborough
Peterborough is part of TSSA’s marginal seats campaign and East Coast is a key issue. Our Community Organsing Team are working with local groups and political leaders to build support for public ownership. TSSA were joined for a recent leaflet action by Lisa Forbes, Labour’s candidate for Peterborough: ‘It makes no sense to go back to a failed model of franchising that saw two private operators fail mid-way through their contracts. The success of the East Coast line has exposed the myth that private rail companies offer better value for money to the taxpayer. They don’t – they just swallow more subsidies.’

Kings Cross

Maria said, ‘Ministers must keep East Coast on track by abandoning this unnecessary and costly privatisation. Since being run on a not for private profit basis, East Coast services have improved and more than £800 million has been returned to tax-payers in contrast to the two previous failed private operators. Unlike every other rail service in the country, profits are reinvested in improving the service instead of leaving the industry in payments to shareholders. If Ministers get away with selling off the East Coast then the fares paid by passengers will once again be benefitting a few at the top instead of improving the service.’


Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary joined TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes, ASLEF’s Mick Whelan and London Assembly Member Murad Qureshi at Kings Cross.

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