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Cumbrian politicians want 'clarity' over West Coast Mainline services

Senior Cumbrian politicians are demanding assurances about rail services in the wake of the Government’s U-turn on the West Coast Mainline.

Tim Knowles photo
Tim Knowles

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has scrapped plans to hand the franchise to FirstGroup.

But there is no information about what will happen when Virgin Trains’ current franchise ends on December 9. Virgin may be asked to continue running the London-Glasgow service or it may be nationalised while civil servants re-tender the 13-year franchise.

Tim Knowles, Cumbria County Council cabinet member responsible for transport, is urging ministers to put an end to this uncertainty as soon as possible.

He said: “It is incredibly frustrating to see so much doubt and uncertainty around what is effectively the backbone of rail services in Cumbria.

“I am seeking urgent clarity from Government on what their short, medium and long-term intentions are for rail services on this line.

“The county council’s leader and I have pushed the case throughout the franchise process that, whoever runs the line, it is crucial that services are maintained and the necessary investment made in infrastructure.

“We are concerned about any potential reduction to the number of stops made by trains in Cumbria and will continue to push hard to avoid this happening.”

The RMT and Aslef rail unions are demanding the route is renationalised, as is the Green Party.

The Greens’ transport spokesman, Alan Francis, said: ‘We want the franchise to be run by the government-owned Directly Operated Railways (DOR).

“This debacle is further evidence that the privatised rail system is not fit for purpose.

“Passengers are having to foot the bill for an increasingly expensive service and, as we have claimed for many years, the franchise system is fatally flawed.”

Have your say

Now then Rod, lets see if we can disassemble your thoughts. The shambles of the awarding of the west coast main line was carried out under the 2005 railways act. All the conditions of the awarding of the franchise etc.
The awarding of the franchises initially was done by an independent body. This worked fairly well. We have seen some pretty impressive improvements in the initial franchises.
The government in 1999 removed this independence and set up the strategic rail authority. The consequences were so appalling that the government were forced on their sword to abandon the SRA and took the whole awarding of franchises in house to the department of transport in the 2005 act.

This is where we are. You dont actually think a Minister of the Crown goes through all the contract awarding, goes through all the fine print, the due diligence etc? The tens of millions of pounds spent by the two companies bidding for the contract would have resulted in franchise documents five times the size of the Bible at least.

That is what civil servants do (under the 2005 act), they sift through the bids, check everything is correct and summarise the two bids to the minister with a probable recommendation.

The minister then makes a decision based on the information given to him.

Who would have thought that a bunch of civil servants (who are probably quite talented in other ways) could not manage such a large commercial undertaking?

This isnt the fault of a government or a minister. Your petty pathetic point scoring shows how sad and desperate you are.

This contract is worth around £13,300,000,000 (£13.3 billion). The difference between First Group and Virgin to the taxpayer was £2,200,000,000(£2.2 billion). In that context £40,000,000 (£40 million) is chicken feed, pennies in comparison.

So yes. If £40 million wasted results in a better deal overall, then it is money well wasted.

Posted by Bob on 8 October 2012 at 16:12

I bet most of the people moaning on here don't even catch the trains!!!

Posted by Alan Chinyer on 4 October 2012 at 12:55

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