Nationalised East Coast rail line returns £209m to taxpayers

Labour and rail unions question need for re-privatisation

The nationalised railway company operating the East Coast main line handed £208.7 million back to taxpayers last year, fuelling fresh criticism over Government plans to reprivatise the London to Scotland route.

Directly Operated Railways took over the East Coast line four years ago, when National Express controversially handed it back to the Government. Its turnover for the year to April rose 4.2% to £693.8 million, as ticket sales, catering and parking fees ticked up, generating that £208.7 million profit.

The state-run railway's performance comes as the Government plans to reprivatise the line, with a new franchise expected to start in February 2015. Eurostar last month said it would bid to run the railway, with French company Keolis.

But unions claim the East Coast is best in public hands, with figures showing its taxpayer subsidy is starkly lower than other lines'; Virgin Rail, for example, last year received seven times the subsidy than that awarded to the East Coast Mainline.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union, said the figures "destroy from top to bottom this Government's case for handing the East Coast back to the rip-off merchants from the private sector.

"DOR are paying even more money back to the Treasury, in contrast to the fat profits extracted from the privatised routes, and yet the politicians are prepared to completely ignore that."

DOR's accounts also reveal the East Coast carried 19.05 million passengers in the year, up 1% on the previous 12 months. It said East Coast had the highest average loads on its trains of any British operator, more than 36% ahead of the next busiest line. DOR paid its chief executive Michael Holden a salary of £224,800 for the year, up from £156,000 in the previous 12 months.

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