Turnaround in East Coast rail figures hailed

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THE publicly owned railway company that runs Yorkshire’s main route to the capital has reported its best-ever punctuality figures.

East Coast, which was temporarily re-nationalised three years ago, also reported a surge in passenger journeys and customer satisfaction as its parent company announced a 7 per cent increase in operating profits.

Network Rail said 93.3 per cent of East Coast trains ran on time in the four weeks to mid-September – up from 86.6 per cent last year.

The performance, which was in line with a national high of 94 per cent, was its best since records began in 1999.

Directly Operated Railways (DOR) which took over the line from National Express in 2009, said its operating profits rose to £7.1m in the year to March.

Turnover amounted to £665.8m, up by £20m, leaving a profit before tax and service payments to the Department for Transport of £195.7m – an increase of £13m.

DOR chairman Doug Sutherland said: “During the year, we made very good progress with the business turnaround of East Coast, and continued to invest in our infrastructure assets, people, and the delivery of significant improvements in customer service.”

Passenger journeys increased by 2.1 per cent year-on-year to 18.9 million, while customer satisfaction rose by two per cent. It also reported a 21 per cent surge in first class journey bookings, including a 31 per cent rise on Leeds to London services.

Mr Sutherland said despite ageing assets, close co-operation with Network Rail on infrastructure improvements was starting to pay off.

DOR anticipates the franchise will transfer to a new private operator around the end of next year. Mr Sutherland said the firm wanted a successful transfer back to the private sector, in good condition, and to maximise the value of the franchise.

Bob Crow, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “These figures show that a publicly-owned train operator can run services without robbing the taxpayer and ripping off huge private profits and dividends.

“Every single penny made by DOR is reinvested in services and that is why they should be handed the West Coast route as an alternative to the current franchise madness and be allowed to carry on developing a publicly-owned railway on the East Coast.”