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West Coast Main Line competition cancelled

The competition to run trains on the West Coast Main Line has been cancelled following the discovery of significant technical flaws in the way the franchise process was conducted, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced.

The decision means the Department for Transport (DfT) will no longer be awarding a franchise contract to run the West Coast service when the current franchise expires in December.

FirstGroup was due to take over the running of the London to Scotland line after being awarded the contract by the DfT in August, but Virgin Rail, which currently runs the service, launched a High Court challenge against the decision

West Coast Mainline deal on hold

West Coast Mainline
Virgin train on West Coast Mainline Credit: PA

Legal action by Virgin Rail has stopped the Government signing a contract awarding the West Coast Mainline franchise, which runs through Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway, to a rival bidder.

MPs were told by the Rail Minister, the Government would "robustly" defend the case following the decision to award the contract to FirstGroup.

Theresa Villiers told MPs in a written statement "As a result of a legal challenge, which the Government intends to defend robustly, we have not yet signed the contract with First West Coast, and consequently the competition remains live"

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Cumbria flood alerts still in place, and minor delays on A595

The Environment Agency has flood alerts in place for the Rivers Ehen, Calder, Irt and Esk, and also for the Upper Derwent from Seathwaite to Derwent Water. This means more flooding is possible but not imminent.

The overnight floods in the Egremont area are causing a minor delay of 10 minutes on the A595 southbound down the Cumbrian coast.

They have already caused serious problems overnight: a train derailed at 7:20am near Nethertown because of a landslide, and high floodwaters in Beckermet have left a bridge unstable in the middle of the village; Morass Road is still closed.

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New West Coast Main Line franchise to be signed today

Virgin Trains
Virgin Trains have operated the West Coast Main Line since 1997. Credit: Clara Molden / PA Wire

The new contract for the West Coast main line franchise could be signed today. The Government has awarded the contract to FirstGroup after it bid more than £1 billion more than Virgin Trains.

However, the outgoing company is trying to bring about a last minute change of heart, with its boss, Sir Richard Branson, offering to run the service for free while it is scrutinised by Parliament.

Opposition MPs are calling for a debate at Westminster, which returns from its recess next week.

Despite the calls, a spokesman for the Department for Transport indicated that the agreement was set to be signed today saying, "The winning bidder was decided by a fair and established process and no reason has been advanced to convince DfT not to sign the agreement."

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