Green Petition on East Coast Mainline Calls for Public Ownership

train07:17 Friday 18th October 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: A 23,000 signature petition will be handed in to the Department of Transport today calling for the East Coast Mainline to remain in public ownership. The line passes through the East of the region with a stop at Peterborough of course, as it links London and East Anglia with the North East and Scotland. It also goes through Huntingdon of course. Our reporter Johnny D. is in Peterborough this morning, overlooking the line. How is it for you?
JOHN DEVINE: Well, I’ll tell you what Paul, it’s a misty murky old morning in central Peterborough here. I had hoped to tell you what was going on on the platform a couple of hundred yards down the line, but I can’t see the platform, because it’s so foggy here. I’ve got Fiona Radic with me from the Green Party. Now why do you think it’s so important that this remains in public ownership Fiona?

FIONA RADIC: Well I can’t see any reason for letting out the franchise. This is a publicly owned company making £209 million last year. And why would we send those profits to companies which are held overseas, when we’ve got them retained in the UK?
JOHN DEVINE: The Government argues that it would be even more profitable if it is back in private hands.
FIONA RADIC: Well it may well be. And they may find that on the basis of somebody failing last time, they might give private owners an even bigger subsidy this time to run it.
JOHN DEVINE: Profit at the moment Fiona, but if things go off the rails, it could be a big burden for the taxpayer, couldn’t it?
FIONA RADIC: I fail to see how this line could possibly go off the rails. This is a line which has been operating for 150 years. It’s built itself into a single unit. And it used to be part of the national network. The Green Party would like to see that national network back to be honest.
JOHN DEVINE: And what’s happening today?
FIONA RADIC: Today a petition is being handed in, and we’re trying to persuade Parliamentarians, by delivering that petition to Westminster Palace, not to franchise this line, which is a very small step in bringing the railway back into public ownership.
JOHN DEVINE: And if the East Coast Main Line is privatised, the handover could happen as soon as February 2015. Is that right?
FIONA RADIC: I think that’s right, which would be just before the next election. So the British people haven’t really got a say. They’ll be able to punish their elected representatives by voting them out at the next election, if they disapprove of what they do now. But it’s very difficult. It would be better really to have the decision after the next election, and have this as part of somebody’s election pledges.
JOHN DEVINE: And very quickly, politicians and promises. You believe in that Fiona. Tell us why?
FIONA RADIC: I do. I actually made a promise yesterday, and it can be really difficult to keep them, so .. I made a promise to a little boy. He said would I say on the radio that yesterday I met a little boy and that his name was Zen. Thank you for letting me keep my promise.
JOHN DEVINE: Can we have the fog horn please.
JOHN DEVINE: Thank you.
PAUL STAINTON: Very foggy out there this morning. Very foggy. Andie Harper just walked in explaining how foggy it is. I didn’t realise it was quite that foggy that we needed a fog horn. But we do this morning. Get your lights on if you’re out and about. And don’t forget, if you are using fog lights when it’s not foggy, turn them off. Johnny D. at Peterborough Railway Station, a very foggy Peterborough Railway Station this morning. So should the East Coast Main Line remain in public ownership. or do we need to get some money back and get it sold off?