Call to renationalise railway line

Rail campaigners will stage protests to press for the renationalisation of the West Coast Main Line following the fiasco over who will run the franchise.

Union officials, passengers and activists will stage demonstrations at train stations across the country as the Government prepares to announce whether Virgin will continue to run services along the route.

The Government decided that Virgin had lost its franchise to the First Group, but suddenly announced earlier this month that the process will start again because of flaws in evaluating previous bids.

Transport Secretary Partick McLoughlin is set to make an announcement early next week amid speculation that Virgin will be given an 18-month extension to keep its services running, rather than the route being handed over to state-owned Directly Operated Railways (DOR) from December 9.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, said: "In light of the West Coast fiasco it would be an absolute disgrace if the most popular option, public ownership, was ignored.

"Opinion polls and online surveys now show that between 70% and 90% of the British people support full renationalisation of the railways.

"It's not the evaluation or the franchising model that's wrong, it's the whole greed-driven, free-for-all of privatisation that has brought Britain's railways to their knees and turned us into a global laughing stock.

"Some shabby little whitewash of a Government review that doesn't examine the cheaper and more efficient model of public ownership would doom us to repeat the failures on the West Coast time and time again until the political class wake up to reality."

Frances O'Grady, general secretary designate of the TUC and chairman of the Action for Rail campaign group, said the East Coast Main Line, which is currently being run by DOR, showed that publicly operated railways could be more efficient and deliver better value for money.

The group claimed that train operators made a £2.7 billion gain from taxpayers last year after receiving £3.8 billion worth of public subsidies and paying £1.1 billion in premium costs.