Public oppose privatisation of East Coast Main Line railway

By staff writers
August 2, 2013

Only one in five voters (21 per cent) are in favour of re-privatising the East Coast Main Line railway, according to new polling published yesterday (1 August 2013).

The survey of over 1,000 adults - carried out by Survation for the campaign group We Own it - shows that nearly three-fifths (58 per cent) of the public oppose government plans to hand the route back to private train operators. A further one in five (21 per cent) say they are unsure about the proposals.

The poll also shows that far more Conservative voters are against (48 per cent) taking the East Coast out of public ownership than are in favour of it (28 per cent).

The findings come as rail campaigners prepare to hold protests against the plans at 11 East Coast Main Line stations.

The protests, which have been organised by the Trade Union Congress's Action for Rail campaign, will highlight how re-privatising the East Coast is bad for commuters and taxpayers.

Analysis published today by Action for Rail shows that since returning to state control in 2009, the East Coast Main Line has returned £602 million to the Treasury - over £220 million more than the Virgin-operated West Coast line.

Over the same period Virgin, which has expressed an interest in taking over the East Coast Mainline route, paid shareholders nearly £200 million in dividends.

By contrast, all of the profits East Coast Main Line has made since being re-nationalised have been invested back into improving the service and by 2014 is expected to be generating over £800 million for the Treasury.

Action for Rail says the government's decision to push ahead with the re-privatisation shows that ministers are putting ideology before evidence and ignoring the wishes of voters.

Protestors will today hand out cards to passengers highlighting how they will lose out if the East Coast is returned to private hands.

Action for Rail campaigners will use the cards to encourage commuters to tell their local MPs their concern over the plans. The cards urge MPs to back a policy of investment, fair fares and a publicly-owned railway that puts people and commuter safety before profits.

We Own it Director Catt Hobbs commented: "The East Coast Mainline, like other public services, should not be run for profit. The general public know this and they don't want to see the line re-privatised."

She added: "The campaign to keep the East Coast public is just one example of how public ownership is making a comeback. The days of privatisation-as-usual need to come to an end."

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan said: "The recent announcement by ATOC that we will not see any improvements in capacity before 2019, to alleviate the gross overcrowding highlighted in recent reports, gives the Action for Rail campaign greater impetus to challenge any job cuts in the railway community and to call for a new model."

"The one area where we could see real improvements in the future, allied to its current good performance, would be via directly operated railways on the East Coast, with further government investment," he noted.

The Survation poll of 1,006 adults was carried out between July 11 and July 12 2013.

* The full poll findings can be studied here (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/East-Coast-Table.pdf

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