Transport Secretary says West Coast rail deal will go ahead

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson has offered to run the route free of charge to allow the decision to be re-examined Photo: Martin Keene, Press Association Images

Plans to hand the contract from Virgin Trains to FirstGroup to run the West Coast Main Line will go ahead says the Transport Secretary, despite growing opposition from some MPs and members of the public.

The Government is set to sign off the controversial 13-year deal tomorrow (August 29), the deal will see winning bidder FirstGroup take over the line, which runs through the Midlands.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said despite the Commons Transport Select Committee wanting to examine the new deal, FirstGroup and the Government will press ahead with the deal.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, Mrs Greening said all bidders had "bought into" the "fair and well-established process".

"We do plan to push on with signing the contract with FirstGroup and I do suspect that, although I have a huge amount of respect for Virgin and the work they have done on the line, I suspect that, had they won the bid, they would have been perfectly happy with the process."

– – JUSTINE GREENING, TRANSPORT SECRETARY

A row has raged over Virgin losing its franchise and boss Sir Richard Branson offered to run the route free of charge to allow the decision to be re-examined.

The Labour Party is also urging Mrs Greening not to sign off the contract until MPs have been able to scrutinise it in detail.

More than 150,000 members of the public have signed an online petition against the decision, in a campaign supported by double Olympic champion Mo Farah, Apprentice star Lord Sugar and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Sir Richard has urged the Prime Minister to "intervene to try to get some sense into the Department for Transport", saying with Mr Cameron and the Chancellor George Osborne away on holiday, a decision on signing the deal should be delayed by a month.