02 October 2009

"For the forseeable future"

It would appear that the forthcoming, nationalised, East Coast rail company will remain in public hands "for the foreseeable future", according to Transport Secretary Lord Adonis. We understand that National Express East Coast's next franchise payment to the DfT is on 17 October and this may well be the first on which they default, thus forming the start-date for the new East Coast Main Line Company (ECMLC) soon after.

Speaking at a fringe meeting that formed part of this week's Labour Party Conference in Brighton, Adonis actually said that he expects the new ECMLC to be operational "in November or December".

Adonis is understood to be (understandably) wary about the albatross around his department's neck that the East Coast franchise has become and is likely to NOT send out invitations for tenders to run said operation for at least two years because there is a strong likelihood that a new operator may not be able to run the Anglo-Scottish flagship intercity line any better than it is being done at present. It would appear tendering during early 2010, with the operator announced next summer, may not be the case.

Come 3 June 2010 (the latest Gordon Brown can hold a General Election), Lord Adonis might not be in office and the decision could be transferred to his opposite number, Theresa Villiers, and with the Conservatives being plainly anti-state-owned when it comes to the railway, would they want to 'get rid' as soon as possible? A rushed, new, private franchisee could backfire and another failed operator along this prestigious route could have untold consequences for the party who permitted it to happen, so will the DfT under Tory tenure be a little more tentative?

And of course there's speculation that Lord Adonis may remain in office irrespective of next June's election outcome. (GL)