Chris Grayling is "doing more than Jeremy Corbyn and Karl Marx put together to make the case for public ownership" in his handling of the East Coast Mainline, says Britain's former infrastructure tsar Lord Adonis.
The peer, who nationalised the East Coast route back in 2009, spoke to Julia Hartley-Brewer after Grayling, the transport secretary, gave a statement to MPs saying that the line is failing.
Grayling suggested the route, which was reprivatised just three years ago, could be returned to public ownership, due to operators Stagecoach and Virgin failing to meet key financial commitments. However he also suggested that Virgin may be given the chance to continue running the service on new terms.
Adonis, who ran the National Infrastructure Commission before resigning over Brexit in December, explained that Virgin and Stagecoach had "massively overbid" for the contract and so decided to "try it on with Chris Grayling" by seeking to renegotiate.
He suggested that Grayling "should have told them to get lost", just as he did by setting up a state company when National Express was running the line in 2009.
Grayling's concession to Virgin, Adonis said, will leave him with "a queue round the block... of every company wanting a new deal," and it sends a "terrible signal to the rail companies."
The interviewee added that Grayling is doing "everything he can to prop up Stagecoach and Virgin," as he "doesn't want to give a political point to the Labour party that where private compaies fail, the right thing to do is intervene."