UK

East Coast rail franchise increases return to taxpayer

East Coast electric train Image copyright East Coast
Image caption East Coast increased passenger numbers and its return to the taxpayer last year

The publicly-owned railway company East Coast returned almost £220m to the taxpayer last year, according to its annual results.

Directly Operated Railways - which was set up by the government in July 2009 to run the East Coast franchise - has announced a post-tax profit of £6.2m.

Its profit before tax and fees to the Department for Transport was £225m, an increase of 8% on the year before.

The franchise is due to be re-privatised in March next year.

Labour has said it would allow public-sector operators to challenge private firms for rail contracts, if it wins the general election in 2015.

DOR took over the East Coast franchise when National Express's contract was terminated in November 2009, because of financial difficulties.

East Coast runs railway services along the 936-mile line, which runs from London to the north of Scotland.

Turnover for 2013-14 was £720m, with £654m of that coming from passenger income.

In total, 19.9m journeys were made, an increase of 4.5% on 2012-13.

The chairman of DOR, Doug Sutherland, said: "Our financial performance has been good throughout the year, with £216.8m provided to the DfT in premium and dividend payments, up from £202.8m the year before.

"The business plan for the remainder of the franchise will see the good work continuing, with the twin aims of ensuring a successful transfer of the business back to the private sector in good condition, and maximising the value of the franchise achieved by the government and the taxpayer."

The acting general secretary of the RMT union, Mick Cash, said the franchise shouldn't return to the private sector next year.

"Despite the continued stunning financial and operational success of the publicly-owned East Coast service, this right-wing Government are hell bent on smashing it up and taking another gamble on a private operator," he said.

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents Network Rail and the rail operators, said private firms also returned large sums to the taxpayer.

"It remains the case that East Coast is just one of a number of operators making payments to government," he said.

"Latest figures for 2013-14 show the biggest payment was made by private operator South West Trains, which paid over £300m."

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