Rail union RMT has warned that Northumberland could lose key rail links if the government continues with its plans to sell off the publicly-owned East Coast Mainline.

The union is concerned the new franchise agreement does not have enough guarantees written into it for services from Morpeth, Alnmouth and Berwick.

RMT has also warned that early morning connections to Newcastle and London could go as the “minimum service levels are re-written”.

 “It is scandalous that the Government are prepared to give the private sector vultures hovering over the East Coast route a green light to rip up the timetable and to leave passengers and communities cut-off and stranded in the name of private greed and private profit,” said RMT’s acting general secretary Mike Cash.

“The campaign to stop Ministers from wrecking the highly-successful, publicly-operated East Coast services in order to suit their own ideology, and to line the pockets of their mates in big-business, will be stepped up.”

The Government has confirmed it wants to privatise the route, which runs from London to Edinburgh, early next year. This is despite fierce opposition from political figures and union leaders, who claim it has returned almost £600 million to taxpayers, since it went into public ownership in 2009.

In October last year the Department for Transport officially started the process with the publication of a series of procurement documents for potential bidders.

Three firms are in the running to take over the franchise. They include a consortium of Keolis, a French firm which is majority owned by SNCF, France’s national state-owned railway company, and Eurostar, which is also majority-owned by SNCF.

The other bidders include East Coast Trains Ltd, a business owned by First Group Plc, and Inter City Railways Limited, which is owned by Stagecoach Transport Holdings Limited and Virgin Holdings Limited.

Last week transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced private funding had been secured to build new “state of the art” trains including 500 carriages which will operate on the East Coast Main Line.

McLoughlin said that the new trains would add 19% more seats on each service operating from London’s Kings Cross station to Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh, as well as reducing journey times by up to 15 minutes.

Subscribe to the BBT Newsletter

Join the Buying Business Travel newsletter for the latest business travel news.

Thank you for signing up!