Call to halt rail sale plans

Councillor Scott Dickinson at the bus stop next to the shops in Hadston.
Councillor Scott Dickinson at the bus stop next to the shops in Hadston.

Labour’s candidate for north Northumberland in next year’s General Election has called for a halt to the sell-off of the East Coast mainline.

Scott Dickinson, Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) for Berwick, has also welcomed outline proposals put forward by more than 50 prospective Labour’s MPs in key marginal seats to effectively renationalise the rail network.

The decision by the Government to hand back the East Coast Mainline franchise to the private sector has attracted criticism.

Scott, currently Northumberland County Council’s ward member for East Chevington, is pointing to the ‘taxpayer bailout’, in 2008. Since then the line has returned profits to the Treasury.

Last week, the Gazette reported that concerns about the future of services in Northumberland had been raised.

The service specification for the franchise, which is to be re-privatised from March 2015, seems to indicate that Alnmouth would have similar trains running as now.

However, campaign group SENRUG (South East Northumberland Rail Users Group) is concerned that vital services currently provided at Morpeth are not protected.

And rail union RMT warned that the new agreement does not have enough guarantees for services from Morpeth, Alnmouth and Berwick.

Scott said: “The Coalition decision to flog the East Coast mainline franchise to the private sector for a third time smacks of putting ideology before the interests of the taxpayer.

“Sir Alan Beith needs to put pressure on his ministers in the Coalition to show some ‘spine’ and stop another sell-off, which will undoubtedly lead to a worse deal for north Northumberland.

“I’m happy to back the proposal put forward by 50 of my Labour colleagues to bring the railways back under public ownership, because I think the taxpayer and the passenger is getting ripped off.

“There is no way that the East Coast sell-off should go ahead before the General Election.”