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What's next for the West Coast main line?

On Monday the government will make an announcement on the next phase for the West Coast Main Rail Line, the busiest and most profitable in the country.

This will not decide who will get their hands on this prize in the long term, but as the deadline for the end of the Virgin contract approaches, the government has to decide if they will ask Sir Richard Branson's company to carry on running the line while the bidding fiasco is sorted out, or if they will temporarily take the line back into public ownership while the mess is untangled.

File photo: On Monday the government will make an announcement on the next phase for the West Coast Main Rail Line. Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

You might think, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, just let Virgin continue while the long term future is settled. It is not quite as simple as that.

There is the threat of legal action from First Group. And the government is taking the possibility of temporarily running the railway seriously.

The department does already have the 'DOR', the team that runs the East Coast line after that franchise mess.

But I'm told they have asked City headhunters to investigate putting together a management team to run the West Coast line both as a short term and more fascinatingly, as a long term option.

This whole mess is very far from being cleaned up.

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