1. ITV Report

Future of rail in south-east thrown off track

Sir Richard Branson's train company Virgin Rail had mounted a legal challenge against the government. Photo: Geoff Caddick, PA

The future of rail services in the south-east has been thrown into disarray, after ministers called a halt to the franchise competitions for several lines.

It comes as the government admitted it had mishandled the bidding process for the West Coast Mainline, which it had intended to award to transport company FirstGroup. The Department for Transport only noticed the errors made while preparing to defend itself against a legal challenge from Virgin Rail, the current owners of the West Coast franchise.

That deal has now been scrapped and all other outstanding franchise competitions have been paused, including those for the Essex Thameside service (which runs from London to south Essex) and the Thameslink service (which links Bedford, London and Brighton).

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