East Coast train profits hailed
Big profits for a train company run in the public sector have meant a return of almost £217 million to taxpayers.
Directly Operated Railways (DOR), which runs the London to Scotland East Coast main line for the Department for Transport (DfT) has said it made a pre-tax operating profit of £225.3 million in 2013/14.
This has resulted in the DfT receiving £216.8 million in premium and dividend payments.
DOR has run East Coast since November 2009 after the private sector operator National Express pulled out.
But the Government is taking the East Coast franchise private again, with a new private sector operator due to start at the end of March 2015.
DOR chairman Doug Sutherland said: "During the year, we continued to make further good progress with the business turnaround of East Coast.
"We have continued to improve the journey experience for our customers during 2013/14 through various new initiatives."
Mick Cash, acting general secretary of rail union the RMT, said: " 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.
"Reprivatisation of East Coast defies all economic logic and is nothing less than an act of industrial vandalism which will spark off a fresh wave of public anger over the racketeering on our railways."
Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, said: "These latest results from East Coast prove conclusively that a publicly-run railway benefits both the taxpayer and passengers.
"This firm will have paid £1 billion to the Treasury by the time it is sold off next March to the highest private bidder. This is all about Tory dogma rather than running a social railway for the benefit of the public."
A spokesman for rail industry body the Rail Delivery Group said: "DOR has done a vital job of operating the East Coast franchise until it is re-let, but as the rail regulator has stated, the differences in train operating costs mean financial results cannot be used in isolation to draw conclusions about the performance of individual operators.
"However, it remains the case that East Coast is just one of a number of operators making payments to government. Latest figures for 2013/14 show the biggest payment was made by private operator South West Trains, which paid over £300 million."
A DfT spokesman said: "The amount of money East Coast returns to the Government has nothing to do with whether it is privately or publicly run.
"For example, East Coast currently runs older trains and operates fewer services than West Coast, its nearest competitor. Therefore its costs are lower and it is able to return more money to Government."
He went on: "We're addressing that by investing in brand new trains and hundreds of millions of pounds worth of improvements to stations and track.
"A strong private-sector partner will be best placed to build on that investment and deliver more frequent, comfortable and reliable services for passengers along the route."