Rail partnership plans court controversy

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling's plans to bring the operation of trains and track under a PPP model have come under fire amid claims that the announcement was used as a cover to bail out a franchise.

Commons public accounts committee chair Meg Hillier has said that the influential group of MPs will “look at” the announcement, after Grayling said that the first line to take on the new partnership model would be the East Coast rail franchise.

However, critics including National Infrastructure Commission chair Lord Adonis have claimed that the move represents a “bailout” of the Virgin Trains East Coast train operating company that had been running the line.

During a hearing on a different topic by the public accounts committee, the Department for Transport, permanent secretary Bernadette Kelly denied the move represented a bailout, insisting the move was about developing “a new public-private partnership”.

However, the concern among critics will only add to scepticism towards the use of partnership models among the general public as the government attempts to get its new approach to private investment in rail off the ground.