Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Are the Conservatives signing a pact with the devil?

I am somewhat surprised to see that discussions have taken place between my 'favourite' rail operator, National Express and the Conservative Party, in an attempt by the former to be allowed to bid for new rail franchises following their failure on the East Coast and East Anglian routes.

Whilst Lord Adonis has set his heart against allowing them to bid at all, the Conservatives have taken the view that, after a period in purdah, they see no reason why they shouldn't get the chance to welch on another contract, run down the quality of services, axe catering, cleaning and customer service staff, and generally make train travel less enjoyable for hundreds of thousands of captive victims, sorry, passengers.

Clearly, the Conservatives believe that the debate is not one of private versus public, it's more incompetent friends versus competent enemies. For those who have suffered from National Express in recent years, the warmth shown by the blue team towards them is a sign to beware.

Personally, before National Express get awarded another franchise, I would expect them to compensate the Government for the costs incurred when they handed in the keys to the East Coast franchise, and to agree an extremely punitive break clause should they choose to walk away from another one. Then, and only then, would I be willing to contemplate letting them have another go.

Perhaps the Conservatives need to remember that, no matter how much money they get from private companies, it's the public that actually wield the votes. I suspect that this news won't go down to well with voters in these parts...

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