Third-class trains? Union leaders accuse Government over leaked document on East Coast main line

RMT says Department for Transport plans to 'smash' current public-sector operation on the key inter-city route

Travel Correspondent

Rail union leaders and the Labour Party have responded furiously to a leaked document on the future of the East Coast main line - accusing the Government of planning to bring back Third Class.

The RMT accused the Department for Transport of planning to "smash apart" the current public-sector operation on the key inter-city route, which connects London with Leeds, Newcastle and Scotland. Directly Operated Railways, a holding company, took over the franchise in 2009. The previous holder, National Express, walked away after suffering substantial losses. The present operator recently returned £208m to the Treasury.

The franchise prospectus for returning the line to the private sector is due to be published on Monday. But the RMT union has obtained a pre-publication copy, complete with notes from civil servants on editing the document for public consumption.

Eurostar, the cross-Channel train operator, has expressed interest in the East Coast franchise, and Virgin Trains is expected to bid. But the RMT said that the franchise would be awarded "on lucrative, profiteering terms that will enable them to reduce the quality of service [and] introduce a new band of third-class travel".

Labour's shadow transport secretary, Mary Creagh, accused the prime minister of a retrograde step: "David Cameron says we're all in this together but if that's true then why is he going back to the 1950s and reintroducing Third Class?"

Yet the details revealed by the union show that the proposed new class would offer a "premium economy" service, between the present Standard and First Class. There is no compulsion for bidders to offer the intermediate category, nor a suggestion that Standard Class would be downgraded.

The rail expert Mark Smith, who runs Seat61.com, said: "There's always been a demand for something better for full-fare Standard Class business travellers who can't upgrade to First. They've been playing around with this idea in various forms for years, including Silver Standard in BR InterCity days." 

His website shows that high-speed trains in Spain and Italy have three classes, with Trenitalia's Milan-Rome-Naples "Frecciarossa" recently going one better with four classes.

Earlier this year, the French train operator SNCF introduced a "no-frills" option called Ouigo, running between a station east of Paris and the South of France, emulating the low-cost airlines. 

The RMT is also angry about what it calls "A systematic and politically motivated de-valuation of the performance and achievements of ECML in the public sector". The union says that civil servants recommended redacting elements that showed the current operator in a good light.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system