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GNER PROBLEMS, TAXIS RAISE
ISSUE OF ACCOUNT WORK

Since the railways were so scandalously privatised by the Major govern-ment, just to prove they had bigger balls than Thatcher’s who had always considered it a privatisation too many, GNER (owned by Sea Containers Ltd) have been considered the premier franchise.

GNER

Operating on the East Coast Main Line between London, Edinburgh and Aberdeen they have always been top of the awards for customer service and other accolades by both the train industry itself and the travelling public until now despite the Hatfield, and the Potter Bar crashes both taking place on their lines and causing major disruption to their services.

Two months ago they destroyed 10 years of good PR and travelling public appreciation by increasing car park charges at their stations by up to 85% throughout the route in England. This was only a couple of months after securing a further 10 years with a possible further 3 year extension to the franchise depending on targets been meet.

At the time much was made of the support given by the passengers to their bid. The bid was 1.3 billion and was at least 300 million more than any other interested parties had bid for the franchise widely held to be the most lucrative in the railway business in Europe. They had anticipated a 9.9 percent increase in business per annum when they first put their bid together in May 2005 but figure released earlier this year show the actual increase was only 3.3%. A large part of this shortfall was due to the drop off of passengers following the horrific events on the 7th July 2005. The rising price of electricity has also hit them hard on their costs, expecting to add 11 million pounds pa from April this year and up to 28 million or so from April 2007. Their parent company Sea Containers is not in a position to bail them out either as it is fighting to stave off bankruptcy in the states. Now the local taxi drivers along the route are getting concerned about the account work they cover for the company. Following a long campaign by the drivers at all the stations on the GNER route they had finally secured all the Rail Replacement and Onward Travel work for themselves. (Previously much of this lucrative work had gone to local Private Hire companies.) The drivers have asked the T&GWU’s, National Passenger Secretary, Graham Stevenson for his help in trying to obtain some form of guarantee that their bills to GNER will be honoured even if GNER disappear. Following the exit from GNER of Chris Garnett the CEO who had lead GNER since conception GNER has threatened to just dump the franchise and let the Government seek new bids. Now if this happens and another TOC (Train Operating Company) takes over the East Coast Main Line (possibly Virgin who have been desperate to take the line since the start of privatisation), are they going to want to pay GNER’s taxi bills. Drivers are starting to turn down account work, and asking for the passengers to pay them and they will then give them a receipt so they can claim the money back from GNER. 14th October is the crunch date for GNER and the franchise as they are due to pay 60 millions of 340 million and if they fail they will forfeit a 15 million bond.

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