"Stay away, Stagecoach!" is one of the campaigns currently being run by pro-nationalisation campaign group "We own it", the idea of this particular campaign is to show Stagecoach (90% owners of Virgin Trains East Coast) that they believe it will be bad for their reputation if they continue to be associated with this franchise particularly if they make any more mistakes.
Here's a video promoting their campaign:
They plan to organise a protest outside of King's Cross at 8am Tuesday 10th April and also they want to get the hashtag #StayAwayStagecoach trending around that time too.
Tell @stagecoachgroup to stay away from our East Coast line! Email them here: https://t.co/T2VgfcK0rY. It only takes a couple of seconds! Let's send a strong message: We don't want Stagecoach running our railway. #StayAwayStagecoach #MakeEastCoastPublic pic.twitter.com/bysbhMHNHb
— We Own It (@We_OwnIt) 5 April 2018
They should really add the event date and times to the description of their YouTube video, as I had to dig around their site to find it. If you feel strongly about this then it's worth getting your voice heard.
My gut feeling
I think it's a good idea that's unlikely to work, but it's important to try. They're taking on a two pronged approach, the first was the obvious approach to campaign to the government to let them know they were against Stagecoach operating the route and this new, additional, approach is to target Stagecoach saying they should back away from any future deal on the franchise.
We took a similar approach here. Save East Coast Rewards was to target VTEC letting them know we were unhappy with them taking away the loyalty scheme, whereas No To Nectar was targeting Nectar directly to show that by associating with VTEC they were damaging their brand.
I do hope they get a good turnout because even if they don't get the results they wish they will realise that there's a lot of people that care about the East Coast and we're not going to accept any further decline in standards.
The problem is I don't think Stagecoach is a company that cares too much about public opinion. People normally choose their bus routes because they're the most convenient option to get them where they need to be, they don't usually select a bus company by brand. Megabus customers will mostly be price led and many that use East Midlands Trains probably don't even know it's a Stagecoach franchise. Virgin are more brand conscious and so even though they're the 10% operator any further bad publicity on the East Coast franchise will likely affect the Virgin brands more than Stagecoach. Here's my thoughts on the future of the Virgin Trains brand on the East Coast franchise.
If they do succeed this video might become a reality:
Do I support nationalisation? The devil is in the detail. Both public and private operation can work in the right circumstances but at the moment we've got neither. Currently private companies have a lot of meddling with the government deciding lots of aspects of the franchise including the rolling stock and what's agreed between the government and the operator in the franchise agreement may not reflect future commercial realities (what sounded like a good idea three years ago might not make any sense now). For example VTEC had to commit a certain about of spending on an 'innovation fund' which has so far got us rubbish like Seatfrog and as financial performance has been poor it has meant they reduced on-board staff to save costs, basically sacrificing the basics to spend on things we don't want. VTEC have had to deal with many poor decisions by the franchise bid team.
One thing to remember is that the government may not take the 2nd option (nationalisation), they may take the 3rd option and seek a new private company to run the route. This is what happened when GNER hit difficulties, they weren't originally replaced with the nationalised East Coast operator but with National Express East Coast.
So whether Stagecoach keeps it, it's nationalised or another operator comes along we have to ensure that they deliver a service that puts the passenger first. We were promised a service that was better than East Coast but in reality it's declining. It is possible for a private company to do a decent job. GNER were amazing between 1997 and 2005. A combination of a high bid in 2005, but also severe financial difficulties of their parent company, Sea Containers, meant GNER couldn't carry on. Since then each subsequent franchise has made ever higher bids and has failed to meet them.
So whatever happens we once again would like a railway to be proud of on the East Coast, not one that's gradually becoming a joke.
We've still got one of the best services in the UK. This is because of the excellent on-board teams who continue to deliver excellent service despite rather than because of the management. In general staff morale declined in 2017 because of badly thought out changes to the crew rotas. Whoever is running the service really needs to restore confidence on board.
In the blog section, views are my own and may differ to other contributors