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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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Virgin Trains to run West Coast Mainline services until November 2014

Virgin Trains will carry on running services on the West Coast Mainline for a further 23 months.

Virgin train photo
Virgin train

Virgin had been set to lose the West Coast franchise it has operated since 1997.

But the Government scrapped the bidding after Department for Transport faults were found with the bidding process.

Today’s temporary deal, announced by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, will see Virgin carry on with the London to Scotland route until November 9, 2014, after which the West Coast line will be let under a long-term franchise.

The deal can be reduced "by up to six months if a subsequent franchise can be let on a shorter timescale".

Mr McLoughlin also announced a new hourly service between Glasgow and London, adding: "We are determined to ensure not only that passengers continue to experience the same levels of service they have in the past, but that services improve."

Virgin has run the line, which takes passengers from London to Scotland, since 1997.

But in August, the transport department announced that a new 13-year West Coast franchise had been awarded not to Virgin but to rival transport company FirstGroup.

It was only after Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, who had branded the bidding process “insane”, had mounted a legal challenge to the decision that Mr McLoughlin scrapped the bidding process, saying there had been mistakes.

Three officials were suspended and negotiations were started with a view to getting Virgin to run the line for between nine and 13 months before a short interim franchise was offered followed by a longer one later.

When he pulled the plug on the West Coast franchise bidding, Mr McLoughlin appointed businessman Sam Laidlaw to produce an independent report into the fiasco.

After producing damning initial findings, which listed failings by the transport department, Mr Laidlaw presented his full report to the department last week.

But with one of the suspended department officials Kate Mingay mounting a legal challenge to her suspension, Mr McLoughlin announced that he was delaying the Laidlaw report publication until this week.

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