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Transport Secretary admits mistakes were made in West Coast decision

"I have had to cancel the competition for the running of the West Coast franchise because of deeply regrettable and completely unacceptable mistakes made by my department in the way it managed the process.

A detailed examination by my officials into what happened has revealed these flaws and means it is no longer possible to award a new franchise on the basis of the competition that was held.

Passengers can rest assured that while we seek urgently to resolve the future arrangements the trains that run now will continue to run, with the same drivers, the same staff and timetables as planned."

– Patrick McLoughlin, Transport Secretary

Tim Farron on West Coast Main Line decision

West Coast Main Line Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Cumbrian MP, Tim Farron, has spoken out over the decision to rerun the competition to operate the West Coast Main Line.

The Westmorland and Lonsdale MP said "people must be held accountable" for the errors.

FirstGroup was due to take over the franchise from Virgin in December.

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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

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Branson to give evidence on West Coast line

Sir Richard Branson, boss of the Virgin Group, will give evidence to MPs on the controversial re-awarding of the West Coast mainline franchise.

Virgin has run the line since 1997 but last month it lost the renewed contract to rival operator FirstGroup. Virgin has launched a legal challenge to that decision.

Sir Richard is expected to question the entire bidding process, when he appears before MPs on the Transport Select Committee. The committee will also hear from the Chief Executive of FirstGroup, Tim O'Toole. He is likely to defend his company's bid and argue that its plans are realistic.

West Coast Mainline deal on hold

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"

MP urges Westminster debate

A Cumbrian MP has called for Virgin Trains loss of the West Coast Main Line to be debated in Parliament, after a petition urging the Government reconsider the decision gained over 100,000 signatures.

Virgin Trains was recently stripped of the contract to run trains on the west coast main line, one it's held since 1997. The Government awarded the franchise to FirstGroup. Unions fear the move means job cuts but FirstGroup have said they'll bring key improvements and investments to the line.

"Our business plan calls for jobs to remain largely flat. All these statements that we're going to cut all the catering jobs couldn't be further from the truth. In fact we're going to expand catering. We're going to do more catering because it's all about attracting people on to the railway. So no, we aren't cutting jobs."

– FirstGroup

A petition was set up and it now has over 100,000 signatures on it. This could potentially trigger a debate on the issue in the House of Commons if the petition gains support from MPs and is picked by the Backbench Business Committee.

Tim said:

“I think we must listen to the public and debate this issue in Parliament. Over 100,000 people have signed the petition – we must allow the case to be put and hear the Government's reply.

"On my annual surgery summer tour it has been the top concern my constituents have wanted to talk about. If we don’t discuss this it will just make people even more cynical about Westminster politics.”

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