1. ITV Report

West Coast Main Line franchise competition cancelled

The competition to run trains on the West Coast Main Line has been cancelled. Photo: PA Pictures

The competition to run trains on the West Coast Main Line has been cancelled by the Department of Transport.

It's after civil servants admitted there were 'significant flaws' in the bidding process which saw the contract taken from Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Trains, and awarded to rival operator First Group.

Virgin Trains has run the route from London, through the West Midlands and up to Manchester and Scotland for the last 15 years.

When FirstGroup won the bid, Sir Richard Branson called the decision 'insane'.

Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson said the Government's decision on the line was "insane" Credit: PA

He claimed FirstGroup had overestimated how much it could make running the West Coast franchise, and it would not be able to deliver on its promises for the business.

The bidding process will now start again from the beginning, with millions of taxpayers money being spent on the process.

Transport Secretary Patrick McGoughlin and Derbyshire Dales MP, said he was cancelling the bid for the West Coast franchise:

"because of deeply regrettable and completely unacceptable mistakes made by my department in the way it managed the process".

Sir Richard Branson has welcomed the decision, and said he he was hopeful Virgin would carry on running the franchise which it has been operating since 1997.

FirstGroup said it was "extremely disappointed", saying it had submitted "a strong bid, in good faith and in strict accordance with the DfT's terms".

House of Commons Transport Committee chairman Louise Ellman MP said she was "astonished" by the cancellation of the bid, and said it put the whole franchising process "in disarray".

Many rail experts are now calling on the entire process to be reviewed, with some calling for the re-nationalisation of the country's rail network.

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