Serious questions are to be asked of Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), Network Rail and transport ministers over the failure of the East Coast franchise.
That is the message from transport committee chair Lilian Greenwood who has launched an inquiry into the franchise’s imminent collapse.
VTEC will be the third rail franchise on the East Coast to collapse in just over 10 years.
Operations were last taken back into public ownership, through Directly Operated Railways under the brand name East Coast Trains, in 2009.
Moving ahead, transport secretary Chris Grayling has set out two options for the interim period to 2020: services to be taken in-house and operated by the Department for Transport; or a short-term and not-for-profit arrangement with VTEC.
The committee’s inquiry will look at lessons learned from this and previous franchise failure, the best way forward in the short and longer term, and the wider implications of the failure for the franchising system.
Committee chair Lilian Greenwood said: “This failure – not once, but three times – has drawn criticism from all corners.
“The failure of the East Coast franchise has wider implications for rail franchising and the competitiveness of the current system. Lessons need to be learned by all concerned.
“In the meantime, the Department for Transport must take the right steps to protect passengers and taxpayers. Safeguards must be put in place to restore public confidence in the sustainability of our railways.”