Virgin Trains are to carry on running the West Coast Mainline for the next two years.The move is a temporary one and South Lakes MP says this doesn't give the company any incentive to invest in the line.
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
New West Coast Main Line franchise to be signed today
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."
Unions, politicians and many rail passengers are calling on the Government to delay the signing of a new franchise for the West Coast main line. Virgin Trains is due to lose the service after FirstGroup made a bid that was more than a billion pounds higher.
Thousands of people have signed a petition opposing the move, but FirstGroup insists its service will provide the best deal for taxpayers and passengers.
RMT leaders have said that First Group have based their bid on the same kind of over-geared financial projections that lead to the collapse of the GNER and National Express contracts on the East Coast – forcing the Government to renationalise the service.
Speaking to ITV Border, RMT Leader, Craig Johnston said he believes the contract will be signed in the coming days without a delay. He said members of the RMT union have expressed concern at the decision.