LORD Adonis has said he hopes the Government’s controversial £2bn ‘bail out’ of the East Coast rail franchise can be reversed.

The Labour Party peer spoke out during a visit to the region where he met County Durham MPs Phil Wilson and Roberta Blackman-Woods.

Last year, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling decided last year to cut short the contract given to Stagecoach and Virgin, with a new public/private East Coast Partnership taking over the running route of the route in 2020.

Speaking at Durham Railway Station, on Friday afternoon, Lord Adonis said: “Bailing out Richard Branson and Brian Souter will cost the taxpayer in the North-East hundreds of millions of pounds and that money could have been spent improving the infrastructure to provide better services and ease congestion.

“Instead, all this money is going into the coffers of two if the richest companies in the world, Virgin and Stagecoach.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “The Government has been very clear - no one is getting a bailout and Virgin Stagecoach will continue to meet its financial commitments made to the taxpayer on the East Coast rail franchise, as it has done since 2015. 

“Premium payments continue to flow to the taxpayer, as they currently do, and any suggestion that the taxpayer will be out of pocket is completely wrong.

“Stagecoach has also – on average - paid 20 per cent more back to the taxpayer than when the line was operated by Directly Operated Railways and we continue to receive hundreds of millions of pounds.

“The decision to bring in a partnership to run the service from 2020 is to ensure the train companies work more closely with those responsible for the infrastructure like the track and signalling to help improve the service for passengers.”