Three major rail trade unions have started legal action against the UK Government in an attempt to stop plans to privatise the East Coast rail service.

Three unions, ASLEF, Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), have launched a judicial review of the government’s decision to try and push through plans to make the East Coast a private franchise.

Unions are concerned that the East Coast trains franchise, which is currently run by a state-owned company, is being rushed through when the procurement process should take at least two years, according to recommendations from the Brown review.

Neil Johnson, from Thompsons Solicitors’ Trade Union Law Group, commented: “We will fight alongside all three unions to halt the plans to privatise the East Coast rail service.

“This is yet another example of the government favouring big business over the interests of the British public.

“The government is cutting corners and pushing this through ahead of next year’s General Election and has not carried out an appropriate level of consultation of passenger groups or unions.”

Jobs and employment conditions, as well as taxpayer and passenger interests, are all cited by the unions as being at risk and unions have accused the government of violating its own consultation policy.

ASLEF general secretary, Mick Whelan, said: “It is imperative that we raise the genuine concerns of all stakeholders, but especially the employees, before this is rushed through. We cannot, in good conscience, allow the mistakes of the past to happen again.”

RMT acting general secretary, Mick Cash, added: “After the scandal of this Government robbing the British taxpayer of a billion pounds in the scramble to privatise the Post Office, it is shocking that they are engaging in the same tactics to try and hand the East Coast Mainline back to their friends in big business.”

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Rail workers are at a loss to understand why the government insists on going forward with a broken system which threatens the interests of passengers and taxpayers. We can only conclude that the ideology which saw Royal Mail flogged off on the cheap continues to thrive.”