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"Dogma driven" sell-off must be delayed

9 February 2015

The rushed sell off of the publicly owned East Coast line must be delayed to allow an in depth competition enquiry, the TSSA said today.

The deal to sell it off to a new company controlled by Stagecoach and Virgin has received a red flag warning by the Competition and Markets Authority.

But despite handing a monopoly of all services between London and Scotland to Sir Richard Branson and Sir Brian Souter, Ministers still want to complete the deal by March 1.

"Patrick McLoughlin may have turned a Nelsonian blind eye to the fact he was creating a long distance monopoly for two of his favourite knights," said union general secretary Manuel Cortes.

"But the competition authority are clearly worried about it, especially in the East Midlands where Brian Souter also owns East Midlands Trains.

We have already seen what Virgin have done to fares on the West Coast since privatisation, where peak fares between London and Manchester have jumped 243% to £329.

It is now cheaper for a family of four to fly Ryanair to the Med than travel to Manchester at peak time on a Pendolino."

He said the March 1 deadline should now be scrapped to allow the competition regulator time to make an in depth study. It also raised concerns about Scottish competition given Souter's dominance of the coach market north of the border.

"We all know the Tories want to bundle East Coast out of the door before May 7," he added. "They are desperate to stop voters knowing that it has been the best value franchise for the past five years."

 

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