The East Coast Main Line has been run by Directly Operated Railways, a holding company owned by the Department for Transport, since private operator National Express East Coast gave up the franchise in 2009.
The line has been a great success in public ownership, with figures from the Office of Rail Regulation showing it is Britain’s most efficient franchise, requiring less subsidy than any private operator.
During 2009-12 it paid back more money to the taxpayer in real terms than any previous franchisee: last year it returned more than £208million to the Exchequer. Revealingly, while other private operators raised their fares last week, the East Coast line has frozen more than half of them. Last year, customer satisfaction reached a record high of 92 per cent.