Live updates

Travellers told to 'abandon travel' on Virgin Trains

Passengers hoping to board a Virgin Train today have been told to "abandon" their travel plans. In a series of tweets Virgin said customers already travelling would be left at the nearest station.

Virgin Trains: No services north of Preston

Virgin Trains has suspended all services north of Preston, and reported delays between Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly:

Advertisement

Virgin Trains: No services running to or from Scotland

Virgin Trains is advising that none of its services are running to or from Scotland, and that there are delays between London and Carlile:

Toilet tank 'flaw' behind Virgin trains odour

A strong acidic odour that has troubled Virgin Trains for years has finally been traced to a design flaw in the tanks below the vehicles' toilets.

Virgin is correcting the flaw in its tanks that causes its trains distinctive odour as part of a £3.5 million refurbishment. Credit: PA

The tanks - which hold up to half a ton of waste - have their ventilation outlets positioned too close to the trains' air-conditioning inlets, meaning and unpleasant scent circulates around the carriages, The Sunday Times (£) reported.

Virgin, which plans to fix the problem as part of a £3.5m refurbishment programme, said: “Although toilet smells on our trains have attracted comment over the years, it’s worth setting that in context.

"The most recent National Passenger Survey showed satisfaction with our on-board toilet facilities significantly higher, 60%, than the average for long-distance operators, 52%.”

'Del Boy' Branson accused over 'skimpy' Virgin uniforms

Virgin Trains has delayed the introduction of new uniforms after some female staff said blouses were see through and too low cut.

The rail operator is now offering £20 vouchers for women employees to buy undergarments to save them any embarrassment.

A union chief said staff had complained the red blouses were too flimsy and would allow male passengers to see dark bras being worn underneath.

A union has accused Sir Richard Branson of sourcing train uniforms from 'Del Boy' Trotter Credit: eoff Caddick/PA Wire

"Our female members are upset because they feel Sir Richard Branson is cutting corners by asking them to wear flimsy blouses which are skimpy and they feel too revealing," said Manuel Cortes of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association.

"He has asked Vivienne Westwood to design the new uniform for his air crews. Unfortunately, by contrast, it looks like he is getting the blouses for train crews from Del Boy at Trotters Independent Traders Ltd at Peckham Market."

The problem came to light after trials of a new uniform for staff on Virgin's West Coast Main Line.

Rail franchising process plans to be announced

Today the government will announce plans to re-open the rail franchising process, six months after the collapse of the West Coast Mainline deal.

It is thought that the priority will be to agree a new ownership deal for the East Coast mainline.

A new ownership deal for the East Coast mainline could be a priority Credit: Martin Keene/PA Wire

The rail route will be put back into private ownership after a long period under state control.

The decision is expected to reignite the rivalry between Virgin Trains and FirstGroup, who competed for the west coast franchise last year.

Advertisement

Department for Transport needs to be 'reorganised'

MP Louise Ellman told ITV Daybreak that the Department for Transport needs to be reorganised, with more commercial expertise involved, when dealing with specific franchise bids.

MP Louise Ellman is calling for more commercial expertise involved, when dealing with specific franchise bids Credit: John Stillwell/PA Archive

In October the Government U-turned on the decision to award FirstGroup the West Coast Mainline, after finding "significant technical flaws" in the way the procurement was conducted.

Virgin are now running the service until November 2014, with the fiasco costing the taxpayer £43 million.

Rail franchise deal revealed 'substantial problems'

This episode revealed substantial problems of governance, assurance, policy and resources inside the Department for Transport.

Embarking on an ambitious, perhaps unachievable, reform of franchising, in haste, on the UK's most complex piece of railway was an irresponsible decision for which ministers were ultimately responsible. This was compounded by major failures by civil servants, some of whom misled ministers.

Many of the problems with the franchise competition, detailed in the Laidlaw report, reflect very badly on civil servants at the DfT. However, ministers approved a complex, perhaps unworkable, franchising policy at the same time as overseeing major cuts to the Department's resources. This was a recipe for failure which the DfT must learn from urgently.

– Chair of the Transport Committee Louise Ellman

Ministers 'lied to' over west coast rail deal

In its report on the west coast mainline fiasco, the Transport Committee has said embarking on the reform of franchising on the UK's most complex piece of railway was "irresponsible" and needed greater senior executive involvement and more technical expertise.

"A more direct description of what happened is that ministers and senior officials were lied to about how the outcome of the franchise competition had been reached." said the MPs' report.

"We cannot categorically rule out the possibility that officials manipulated the outcome of the competition not only to keep First Group in the running for as long as possible, as Mr Laidlaw suggested, but to ensure that First got the contract."

DfT branded 'irresponsible' over west coast rail fiasco

A Government department was today slammed for being "irresponsible" over its role in the collapse of the £5 billion West Coast Mainline rail contract.

A committee of MPs said the Transport Department had embarked on an "ambitious, perhaps unachievable" reform in haste, and claimed that ministers and senior officials were lied to.

Virgin has now been told it can run the west coast mainline service until November 2014. Credit: Press Association

FirstGroup was told it had won its bid to take over the franchise from Virgin Trains, but the decision was scrapped after the discovery of "significant technical flaws" in the way the procurement was conducted.

Virgin has now been told it can run the service until November 2014, with the fiasco costing taxpayers over £40 million.

The mistakes came to light after bidder Virgin Trains, which had run the West Coast Mainline since 1997, launched a legal challenge against the decision.

A Government-commissioned report led by businessman Sam Laidlaw last month gave a damning indictment of how the competition was handled.

Three members of staff at the DfT were suspended over the episode.

Load more updates