Rail operator Virgin has been asked to continue running the West Coast mainline for another few months. Virgin had been told it would lose the contract in the last bidding process, only for the Government to U-turn after the process was called in to question earlier this month.
The full process to find a new operator for the line will now be re-run with Virgin running the line in the interim.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin MP told the House of Commons that Virgin will continue to run the West Coast Main Line for the next nine to thirteen months. He said passengers would "see no impact" of the mistakes made by the Government.
Virgin boss Richard Branson welcomed the extension on Twitter:
FirstGroup, which had originally won the bidding for the West Coast mainline before the Government's U-turn, issued the following statement after Virgin was offered the extension:
The West Coast mainline fiasco has become a major problem for the Department for Transport and the Government.
A look at how the fiasco unfolded:
- In August, the Government announced Virgin had lost out to transport company FirstGroup in the bidding war to run a new 13-year West Coast franchise.
- Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson reacted angrily to the decision, branding the bidding process "insane" and launching a legal challenge.
- While preparing for the legal challenge, the Department of Transport discovered "significant technical flaws" in the franchise bidding.
- Three civil servants are suspended as a result and the bidding competition is halted on October 3, crowning an embarrassing U-turn for the Government.
- Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin tells a Commons Select Committee he was happy with the way the bidding had been conducted.
- Virgin has today been offered an extension to run West Coast services for a "short period" of nine to 13 months while the bidding process is re-run.