Ministers' U-turn cost National Express east coast rail line

Ministers considered releasing National Express from its financial obligations, letters show

The government was on the verge of agreeing a deal over National Express's £1.4bn east coast contract that would have kept the troubled transport group in the rail business, it has emerged.

A series of documents rushed out by the Department for Transport under the Freedom of Information Act tonight reveal that the DfT agreed to negotiate switching the expensive franchise to a management contract that would have released National Express from its onerous financial obligations. But ministers changed their position on the deal and National Express was forced to abandon the prestigious main line route in June, plunging the company into a crisis that saw the chief executive resign.

The Guardian (23 December 2009)