Virgin Rail Group To Operate West Coast Franchise For Further Nine Months
The UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) announced today that Virgin Rail Group will operate the London-Glasgow West Coast franchise for 9-13 months, starting 9th December, when the current franchise expires.
The announcement follows the DfT’s decision to cancel the West Coast Main Line franchise which was awarded to First Group in August. The DfT will now negotiate with Virgin Rail Group to operate the franchise for up to 13 months allowing them time to launch a tender for a two-year interim franchise.
Franchising Tendering System On Hold
The interim two-year franchise is a necessary, stop-gap measure as the DfT do not know whether the Brown inquiry, which is looking into the franchising process, will recommend major changes into the procedures which could take a considerable time to implement. The DfT still intend to offer the West Coast Main Line for long-term franchise but in the meantime, the entire franchising tendering system is on hold.
Patrick McLoughlin, Britain’s Transport Secretary said “The cancellation of the InterCity West Coast franchise is deeply regrettable and I apologise to the bidders involved and the taxpayer who have a right to expect better. My priority now is to fix the problem and the first step is to take urgent action to ensure that on December 9 services continue to run to the same standard and passengers are not affected. I believe Virgin remaining as operator for a short period of time is the best way to do this and my officials and I will be working flat out to make this happen.”