‘PEOPLE before profit’ is the message from Durham County Council to the government over the future of the East Coast Mainline.

The rail franchise was taken into public ownership last month after joint operators Virgin and Stagecoach said they would be unable to complete their contract.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has said it will manage the route until a new firm is appointed to take charge in 2020.

But on Wednesday morning, the cabinet formally urged the government to reconsider its current plans.

Cllr Carl Marshall, cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We warned that by having no accountability and having a private operator only interested in profits we would have problems.

“We saw a previously good service put back to the government, not because it wasn’t making a profit, but because it wasn’t making enough profit.

“I would like to add to the recommendation for the government to run the East Coast Mainline indefinitely, ensure there’s accountability for the service and put people before profit.”

The council has previously called for the government to take permanent control of the East Coast Mainline, in 2014, when it was transferred from public ownership to the Virgin-Stagecoach partnership which ran the line until June 24.

New Azuma trains built by Hitachi, in Newton Aycliffe, are due to enter service on the route in December.

The DfT has insisted it will introduce a new public-private contract for the line by 2020 which will involve the government department, track operator Network Rail and as yet undecided third party.

It claims this will avoid previous accusations of a ‘blame game’ and ‘money-go-round’ culture in the rail industry.

But council bosses remain unconvinced and leader Cllr Simon Henig has promised to lobby the opposition, as well as the government.

He said: “We want to see train services enhanced, that’s why we’re building a new station at Horden and I’m intending to raise these issues with the Labour front bench when they come to Durham tomorrow for the Miners’ Gala.”