Posted 5th November 2009 | 17 Comments

East Coast handover to take place on Friday

New East Coast logo

A new logo has been designed for East Coast

The National Express East Coast franchise is to be taken over by the Department for Transport at the end of the week.

Transport secretary Andrew Adonis is promising that services will continue "without disruption".

National Express has now used the last of £40 million pounds which it had committed to support the franchise, and Lord Adonis told the company that arrangements for the handover will be triggered at the end of Friday evening.

In a statement to Parliament, Lord Adonis said: "I notified National Express East Coast Ltd that I am terminating their franchise with effect from 23:59 on 13 November.

"The publicly owned East Coast Main Line company will take over this franchise from that time, with an orderly handover from National Express East Coast. I can assure the travelling public that services will continue without disruption and all tickets will be honoured.

"Staff currently employed by National Express East Coast will transfer to the East Coast Main Line company under the Transfers of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE), with the necessary statutory consultation."

The name East Coast will continue to be used, although National Express branding will be removed as soon as “as cost effectively and as soon as practicable”. A new logo has been designed.

The DfT subsidiary Directly Operated Railways, whose managing director is Elaine Holt, will be the parent of a new operating company, East Coast Main Line Company Ltd., which will use the brand East Coast. Ms Holt will also join the Board of ATOC.

The RMT is calling for the renationalisation to be made permanent, and also for the other NX franchises to be handed back as well. General Secretary Bob Crow said: "RMT is demanding an absolute assurance that this will be a permanent move that recognises the chaotic failures of privatisation on this prestige route. It would be a total waste of taxpayers' money and staff time and energy to have a third gamble on privatisation in 18 months time. We are also demanding that the government get off the fence and strip National Express of their two other franchises under cross-default. Anything else would be a reward for failure on a massive scale."

Opposition politicians are critical too. Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesman Norman Baker has added his voice to those urging the Government to terminate the other two National Express franchises.

East Coast staff will be protected under TUPE, although anyone who does not accept the transfer will be considered to have resigned, and will not be entitled to compensation. Changes to uniforms will be modest, especially as a new franchisee is expected to take over in 2011. However, there will be new badges from the takeover day, plus new ties for men and scarves for women.

The DfT is promising passengers that the service will not change for the worse, but a survey is currently under way to aid a decision about future on-board catering, and all aspects of customer service will be reviewed for "fitness for purpose". Fares policy is not likely to change. Staff are being promised, among other things, "greater visibility" of senior management.

The Department is still understood to be considering the future ownership of East Anglia and c2c, but National Express Group has disputed that the surrender of East Coast would automatically trigger "cross-default" clauses leading to the loss of its remaining franchises. Ironically, East Anglia may be about to qualify for a three-year extension after meeting performance targets.

The crisis at National Express itself is continuing. The biggest investor, the Cosmen family, is reported to be canvassing fellow shareholders to see if they agree with its call for a review led by independent advisors. Talks on a possible merger with Stagecoach broke down last week when the NXG Board rejected its offer, but deputy chairman Jorge Cosmen has urged that negotiations should be resumed. The Cosmens have also threatened to boycott a proposed rights issue worth £350 million.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • C Frankis, London, UK

    Thank goodness that 'National Distress' is no longer running the east coast line
    .I regularly travel on the London - Leeds train and have experienced it become
    ever more filthy and shambolic as far as customer service is concerned.
    On board services have been incompetent at best.
    It's high time the basics were sorted out:

    1. Clarity and consistency in ticket prices
    2. Clean, better designed and maintained train interiors
    3. Much higher standard of customer service

    Aside from necessity there is nothing appealing about choosing the train as a mode of transport in this country.
    We should not have to constantly make do with mediocrity due to a general lack of standards across our public services for which we pay so much.

    I live in hope that the route will be taken on in future by a franchise willing to aim for genuinely providing a service to benefit customers rather than doing as
    little as they can get away with.

  • Phil,, Newark, UK

    What a sad day for such a prestigous route. Lets hope that any future franchise learns from the past and can start to provide a service and standards set by GNER.

  • Martin, EastBourne

    Well now we can see if the govt. is any better at running the railway. The DafT can't run it when they are telling someone else to run it so lets see if they can do better themselevs. I hated NXEC but DOR don't have to pay a billion pound to the excheqer! Funny I wonder if GNER could have run it if they didn't have to pay a premium payment. The whoe world of frnchising is surely being propped up and would collapse if it wearn't for govt spending more of taxpayers money to keep it afloat.

    I propose having about 5 companies they own infrastructure and operate the railway and are not franchises i.e like the big four and done with it rather than all this nonsense every 2 years

  • buzz, Paisley, Scotland

    These services will no longer run to Glasgow Central. I think this is a huge mistake. Customers from Scotland's biggest city will no longer have a direct service to Newcastle, York, etc, from the busiest station in the country, unless of course they travel on 1 of the 2 early morning services run by cross-country trains, which would involve squeezing into a 4 or 5 car voyager. The other option is walking to Glasgow Queen Street, or enduring a 90minute suburban service from central both of which involve a change at Edinburgh.
    So much for no inconveniance to passengers! Presumably the TUPE staff who refuse to accept the new conditions and will be considered as resigning with no compensation, is aimed somewhat towards the Glasgow based staff?

  • Railwaylad, Glasgow, Scotland

    Oh yes yet again lets paint the trains in some sort of mad colour scheme re brand trains with new labels that will get them out of the mess this industry is in!! Yes i can see joe public now lets go for that east coast train cause it has a lovely new label.
    1. Lower prices
    2. Get punctuality sorted
    3. Clean reliable trains
    4. More staff to be there when disruption occurs

  • IJ, London, UK

    Interesting that NXEC's £9 anywhere off-peak single offer closed err yesterday, and is for travel after 19th November. Coincidental? I doubt it. Take as much money as you can and let your predecessor pick up the cost of actually transporting the punters. I'm sure GNER did the same trick just before NXEC took over...

  • Simon Adams, Haslemere

    What a naff new logo, suppose there's not the cash to pay a design company in these lean times!

    ECML should most definitely be re-nationalised permanently but Labour haven't shown the inclination so far and it may be a bit late in the day now sadly.

  • Dave boddy, Peterborough

    I will be pleased to see the back of nxec due to their lack of customer service. The last time I travelled I went first class at not inconsiderable cost as a birthday treat for my wife, and was looking forward to on-board catering. But they had run out of food, so the whole reason for travelling first class disappeared. If I had known I would have travelled standard class and saved over £100 pound. Not a way to run a business and not surprised nxec lost money on this basis. Let's hope DOR can show more management skills!

  • Richard Elms, Peterborough

    As a regular commuter on both NXEC and GNER before it both have their merits. GNER were much more customer focussed and provided a better on board service as well as a sensible compensation regime.

    NXEC have, to their merit, provided free WiFi (when it works which is sometimes infrequent) but have also made gaining compensation an absolute nightmare and so stressful as to be almost impossible.

    I will be glad to see the back of NXEC but I am fearful of what we will get in its place - will it be better or worse - I wonder? Unfortunately I am trapped into using them as no other company provides a service on the journey I wish to make.

  • Jason Lupton, Grantham, England

    I am a daily commuter on the East Coast from Grantham to York and I sincerely hope things improve. Whilst punctuality isn't bad most of the time, I have noted many occasions when connecting trains have missed each other by seconds, staff at Doncaster and Leeds have instructed me to change on to a NXEC train at another station when another rival operator's train was available which would get me to my destination earlier, and one particularly galling incident at Kings Cross when I had reserved seats on a Leeds train which didn't have its platform advertised and then left empty. All the hapless passengers were then left to crowd onto the next departure and the platform staff tried to turn away all those who had tickets specifically for the Leeds train! I appreciate there are punctuality targets to be met and sometimes there are problems with train preparation but sending an in service passenger train away from the Cross in the evening peak completely empty beggars belief. Would it be possible to have an ECML that is run for passengers rather than spreadsheets please?

  • Paul Burton, Horsham

    "National Express branding will be removed"; "A new logo has been designed."; "new badges from the takeover day, plus new ties for men and scarves for women."

    Is it any wonder that the railway costs so much to operate when every new operator not only chooses to impose their own identity but are in fact, forced to scrub off the previous branding (I'm thinking of the way First vandalised the exterior of the 319 units on taking over the Thameslink franchise)?

    A national corporate identity is long overdue and would get rid of these absurdities.

  • AE, AE, UK


    Yes - Some people don't use the seats that are reserved for them. The vast majority do. Standing passengers tend to spot seats that are reserved with no-one sitting in them and they sit in them.In fact, I think that you'll find that other passengers very often sit in reserved seats even when the passengers who have reserved them do turn up.

    My real point was why is it that Saver tickets or whatever name they are called today have a reservation fee whereas the cheaper tickets bought in advance (the ones that I can't seem to ever get for the Aberdeen trains) don't? £20 on top of the price that I was paying was an increase of over 10%. To be honest you probably would have heard from me, and I wouldn't have discovered Sleeper trains, if the reservation fee that was introduced had been more reasonable.

    As it is they have lost all of my business. I know it's a drop in the ocean to them, but it was regular and it was quite a lot of money. I can't believe that they also stopped pre-booking Weekend First Upgrades. That was basically free money for them.

  • Not an NXEA employee, East Anglia

    What irony that the (NX) East Anglia franchise seems set to win a three year extension for 'meeting performance targets'.

    Many staff and customers are nostalgic for the days when First Group was the franchisee, and Bob Breakwell and co ran the operation. They knew how to run an efficient, slick show, to collect fares on the early shift (therefore selling return tickets), and passengers expected to have their tickets inspected on at least one, if not both, journeys.

    Ticket selling and inspection staff were seen as an asset, providing customer service presence and maximising revenue, and more than paying for themselves. A reasonable, intelligible connectional policy applied and local staff were empowered to order a bus should the (hourly) branch train be cancelled or main line disruption wreck branch connections.

    Staff saw their management, which had but relatively few layers.

    Compare that with NX's current 'operation'. Within a short time of taking over the franchise NXEA scrapped the connectional policy and often lets the hourly branch train go when all the passengers for it are on the (few minutes) late London train. Drivers are under pain of disciplinary action if they do not press the cab 'ready to depart' button 3minutes prior to departure from the junction station and, combined with no-one regulating the service for the benefit of the passengers (there is now a joint 'control' for the purpose!), one wonders for whom the trains are being provided in the first place. Of course - performance is measured by trains, not passengers.

    At least the delayed passengers get to hear an ever increasing range of fatuous, pointless announcements on stations (and indeed on trains too). At least NXEA has a policy for something.

    Passengers have given up complaining because of the disdain which NXEA management clearly has for its customers.

    Rarely now in the DOO area are ticket inspectors seen, penalty fares presumably being deemed to be an adequate substitute. How they delude themselves. Additional tiers of management have less contact with their now fewer front line staff, and it is no wonder that staff attitude towards their employer leaves so much to be desired.

    If this merits good performance, then heaven help us all.

  • Phil, Retford, UK

    I think the staff will be VERY relieved. Yes, they do a great job.

  • Izzie, London

    With all due respect to AE, their is actually a logical reason NXEC imposed reservation fees. The southern end of the ECML is very prone to overcrowding, and people would reserve seats they would never occupy, and people would be standing while seats remained vaccant.

  • AE, UK

    I hope that they start by getting rid of the reservation fee for a seat.

    They wanted to charge me £20 extra for my family of four on a return journey to Leuchars just for reserved seats. I pointed out to them that people who book in advance, and were paying less than me for a ticket, got a free reservation but they said that I could take my chances or pay the money. They also said that I could buy the advance tickets to get a free reservation, but I've been doing that journey for years and I've never been able to get cheap tickets even several weeks in advance. Anyone who has ever travelled on the Aberdeen trains at the beginning of the school holidays knows that it would be madness to travel without a reservation.

    I used to pre-book weekend first when it was GNER but as soon as Nat Express took over, pre-booking was stopped. We have never upgraded since.

    I'm not surprised that they are having to give up. They seem to be experts at irritating good customers who are trying to pay them quite a lot of money.

    In the end we went on the Caledonian Sleeper. I was surprised - not only was it cheaper than the normal train, we had more time in Scotland and the kids loved it.

    Any guesses as to how we will be travelling to Scotland in the future.

  • Charles Kemp, York

    In spite of the changes of ownership, whether privatised or nationalised and despite the repeated upheavals and uncertainty, it's the wonderful staff who keep the service running day in and day out. They mustn't become the fall guys for the failings of the franchise system or National Express's ridiculous, franchising-winning bid. The RMT is right - another gamble on the franchise is a losers game.