I can assure you that Stagecoach, not the taxpayer, is paying the price for its overbid for the East Coast franchise. Stagecoach is losing around £200 million itself – more than 20% of its market value – but it has met all of its financial commitments to the taxpayer. The competitive franchise system ensures that when things go wrong, it is businesses, not the taxpayer, who foot the bill.
However, since 2015, the private East Coast franchise has returned nearly £1 billion to the public purse, laid the groundwork for new state-of-the-art trains to operate along the line, achieved some of the highest passenger satisfaction scores in the country, and on average contributed more to the taxpayer than when the line was operated by Directly Operated Railways in 2009-15.
The UK Government has committed to a new approach from 2020, with the first regional public-private partnership on the route to take over, delivering the best of both the public and private sectors. This partnership, which will join up track and train, will build on the success of privatisation, which has over the last twenty years seen a boom in the number of passengers on our railways, and modernise the customer experience.
In the meantime, the UK Government is now considering all options to ensure that passengers’ interests are protected and that services continue until 2020. I understand that the UK Government’s assessment will be published and validated in a transparent manner, and that the decision will be guided by what will work the best, rather than ideology.