The privatisation of East Coast

keep east coast public

Written by Andrew Wilson

The privatisation of East Coast – full name: East Coast Main Line Company Limited – was a personal issue, as well as an issue of politics and ideology for me. To provide some background information, in 2013 I started a relationship with my current girlfriend. However, at the time I lived in Aberdeen and she lived in Edinburgh. I had entered a long distance relationship – shock, horror – and a result, I spent my weekends travelling to and from Edinburgh via East Coast trains. Every two weeks I would travel down to Edinburgh, a journey which cost me around £20-£25 for two advanced singles – with one third off as a result of 16-25 railcard – not bad, eh? Not bad at all.

My relationship is no longer long-distance having luckily moved to Edinburgh to study business. I no longer frequent East Coast’s trains. However, the memories of these journeys will stay with me for years to come – helped by the fact they were so cheap. This line was not only cheap, it was spacious too. If you’ve ever got on a Scotrail – which is operated by a private owned firm – 4pm train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh on a Friday you’ll quickly learn the values of personal space. From Aberdeen to Dundee you will experience more men pressing into you than a hardcore pornstar. East Coast also provided little goodies, like a socket to charge your phone in and an organised seat reservation system – unlike the anarchists at Scotrail, one just want to watch the world burn, one overbooked train at a time. East Coast provided the basics of rail travel that private companies seem incapable of providing and for lower prices. Until… the Conservatives stepped in – play evil music around… now.

So, it’s fair enough to assume that East Coast was operating at a loss and thus costing us, the taxpayer, isn’t it? Yes, that would be fair, unless the East Coast Line had generated profits of £1 billion since 2009. Repeat it with me… One billion pounds – if that wasn’t repeated in a Dr. Evil voice, I will be extremely disappointed. But, it has made this amount of money for the exchequer and yet the Conservatives – cue evil music again – have made the decision to re-privatise East Coast. Once upon a time, East Coast was once a private line, operated by National Express. Long story short, it didn’t work and the line was placed under government control.

The Conservatives – evil music, guys – announced the re-privatisation of the line all the way back in November, so you might find yourself questioning the relevance of this piece. Well, you’d be right. The privatisation of East Coast, as detestable as it might be, is old news. However, there is a point to this. I promise. Activate political thought in 3… 2… 1…

I’m sure we all know that the Conservative party, as right wingers, love a good old privatisation – if you don’t, they love it like heroin addicts love heroin. What a smart analogy Andrew. Although the East Coast line was removed from the hands of National Express and placed into the public sector, the plan has always been to place it back into private hands. But surely, even the Conservatives – yes, yes, play the evil music – could keep a successful, profitable line in the public sector, right? Public opinion is certainly in favour, with 66% agreeing that all railway companies should be nationalised – http://classonline.org.uk/docs/Class-YouGov_poll_results_28_October_2013.pdf – isn’t that the biggest hyperlink you’ve ever seen.

Digressions aside, the government has decided upon Virgin and Stagecoach to run the line. Virgin and Stagecoach, Stagecoach and Virgin, the two sound familiar together, don’t they? That might be becuase the two operate the West Coast Main Line. Sounds slightly un-competitive to me. As an added bonus, the founder of Stagecoach is a tad homophobic too – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/602714.stm.

To summarise, the Conservatives – yep, really, we’re still doing this, play the evil music – have privatised a profitable, successful line, against the wishes of the public and given the contract to two companies, who already own the western line – one of which is owned by a homophobe – forming a monopoly of the two coastal lines. Nice one Conservatives, good job – play the evil music especially loud here. However, one doesn’t expect this from even the Conservatives – I’m sorry, but we’ve got to play it again. The privatisation of East Coast has no grounds. Whatsoever. It is privatisation for ideologies sake and that should scare you. For if a successful railway line can be privatised, even against public opinion, why couldn’t the NHS? The Conservatives – yes, play the fucking evil music – will privatise for privatisations sake, anything that goes against their free market ideology, will be returned to the private sector, no matter the consequence.

To conclude this piece I thought I would give you, my readers, a fairly miserable statistic. To refer back to the previously mentioned YouGov poll: 73% percent of UKIP supporters back a nationalised rail service. You heard it here first, even UKIP seem a better alternative to the Conservative. Even UKIP!

Before you know it, the unrelenting motions of time will have taken us to the 7th of May and on this day I implore you to vote anyone but Conservative. Anyone. Maybe, even UKIP.  Fuck me… UKIP Andrew. I need a drink.

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