Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cameron: Rail Line Must Go Private; PM Rejects Nationalisation Call

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cameron: Rail Line Must Go Private; PM Rejects Nationalisation Call

Article excerpt

Byline: William Green Political Editor in Birmingham ? 0207 219 4389 ?

DAVID Cameron has rejected calls to keep East Coast train services in public hands - dismissing nationalisation of the railways as "completely wrong".

Labour has said it would keep the flagship East Coast route, linking the region with London and Scotland, in public ownership following the Government's bungled handling of the process to choose a new operator for the West Coast franchise.

Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle has also opened the door to a wider debate about renationalising the railways.

The East Coast franchise is currently in public ownership after two previous private operators hit money problems, but is scheduled to return to private hands in December 2013.

Asked by The Journal about the rail network's future, Mr Cameron praised the current operation of East Coast trains but said going back to nationalisation was "completely wrong".

He said: "I think it is a very good service at the moment. But I think that the idea of opening up rail lines to long franchises so the companies involved can make real commitments, I think is a good one."

Speaking at the Tory conference in Birmingham, the Prime Minister said: "I don't think renationalising the railways would be the right thing to do.

"Since privatisation, there are more people using the railways, there is more investment gone into the railways.

"There's actually new lines opening up, track being redoubled, stations being improved. Getting private capital into the railways, I think is extremely worthwhile."

He said even detractors of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Trains, which was due to lose the West Coast contract, would have to admit it brought extra customer service and value.

"So, the idea of just going back to nationalisation I think is completely wrong," said Mr Cameron. …

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