Virgin on track for two more years on West Coast Mainline

Earlier this month, FirstGroup's attempt to get its hands on the West Coast Mainline was de-railed, at least for the next couple of years.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

The government announced that Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains will be left to run the West Coast Mainline for two more years following the collapse of attempts at another franchise deal with FirstGroup.

The announcement comes just a few hours before an official report is published on why the original deal collapsed in the first place, and means that Old Beardie’s trains will rule the roost until 9 November 2014.

Department of Transport officials have said that the ‘temporary’ contract could be shortened by up to six months ‘if a subsequent franchise can be let on a shorter timescale’. However, the extension will give Branson’s lot plenty of time to up their game on the service: he will no doubt be keen to make sure the FirstGroup does not get a look-in by the time the tender process comes around again.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: ‘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.’ That’s the point of putting it out to tender though, isn’t it?

Anyway, for the uninitiated, here’s what happened with the original deal. The Virgin Trains contract on the West Coast Mainline was due to expire, and both Virgin and FirstGroup put in bids to have control of the line when the tender was renewed.

The £5bn deal was formally awarded to FirstGroup, but Branson kicked up a huge fuss, which turned into a very public argument between himself and First’s chief exec, Tim O’Toole. 

But it took the prospect of a judicial review to force the Department for Transport to check its figures, and the next thing we knew, the DfT had revoked the contract and was launching an inquiry into some ‘failings’ in the tender process. Will the inquiry throw up any surprises? We’ll be sure to keep you posted…

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Upcoming Events

Latest on MT

Meet the entrepreneur who keeps skyscrapers in shape

Meet the entrepreneur who keeps skyscrapers in shape

Niel Bethell's building maintenance business High Access has just raised £3.3m.

What are the ingredients of the perfect C-suite?

What are the ingredients of the perfect C-suite?

Harmonious dissonance in the boardroom can be a good thing, says Dean Stamoulis.

The business of golf has landed in the rough

The business of golf has landed in the rough

EDITOR'S BLOG: Adidas and Nike are getting out after conditions turned sub-par.

5 point guide to safeguarding your business

5 point guide to safeguarding your business

SPONSORED: Beef up your data security with these top tips.

Cheat sheet: restore your company's good name

Cheat sheet: restore your company's good name

The much maligned Sports Direct is opening its doors to the public. How else can you regain your reputation?

Uber drivers and cabbies are both set for the scrapheap

Uber drivers and cabbies are both set for the scrapheap

One day the fierce rivalry on London's roads will be consigned to history by self-driving cabs.