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Transport Sec to address rail line future

The immediate future of a main London to Scotland rail route - thrown into doubt following a botched franchise process - is likely to become clearer later today.

The Government is expected to announce that Sir Richard Branson's train company, Virgin Rail, can for a time carry on running trains on the West Coast Main Line.

It is believed Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin could also publish the independent report he commissioned when he was forced to scrap the West Coast franchise bidding process.

Transport Secretary to address rail line future

The immediate future of a main London to Scotland rail route - thrown into doubt following a botched franchise process - should become clearer today.

Virgin is expected to continue running the West Coast Main Line for the time being Credit: Martin Keene/PA Wire

The Government is expected to announce that Sir Richard Branson's train company, Virgin Rail, can for a time carry on running trains on the West Coast Main Line.

It is believed Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin could also publish the independent report he commissioned when he was forced to scrap the West Coast franchise bidding process.

The West Coast rail fiasco: What happened

The Department for Transport (DfT), with Justine Greening as transport secretary, announced in August that it had awarded a new 13-year franchise for the West Coast line not to Sir Richard Branson's rail company Virgin Trains but to rival transport company FirstGroup.

The West Coast Main runs from Glasgow (pictured) to London Credit: Martin Keene/PA Wire

But at the beginning of this month, Mr McLoughlin, who took over from Ms Greening in the early autumn Government reshuffle, pulled the plug on the West Coast bidding.

He laid the blame "fairly and squarely" on the DfT officials. Three DfT civil servants have been suspended.

The faults with the process were discovered as the DfT prepared to defend a legal challenge to the West Coast decision brought by Sir Richard who labelled the bidding process "insane".

Transport Secretary faces rail fiasco quiz

A Government minister and his department boss will face a grilling from MPs today over the West Coast rail franchise fiasco.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin Credit: David Jones/PA Wire

Members of the House of Commons Transport Committee will be armed with a damning initial report into what Labour has described as a "shambles" of a bidding process.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Department for Transport (DfT) permanent secretary Philip Rutnam will have to explain why the DfT went ahead with the West Coast bidding competition knowing the process was flawed.

Mr McLoughlin will also be asked why he told MPs on his first appearance before the committee in September that he was happy with the bidding process only for him to scrap the entire West Coast refranchising process a few weeks later.

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Branson had 'been in dialogue' with Government before rail decision

Sir Richard Branson has denied claims from the Transport Secretary Justine Greening that he only raised concerns over the West Coast main line rail franchise after Virgin lost the bid.

In a letter to the Financial Times, Sir Richard wrote:

The truth is we did and have been in dialogue with the Department for Transport for more than two years on the issues around the invitation to tender.

Furthermore, we had expressed our views to the Conservatives in several meetings while they were in opposition.

In particular, we focused on the assessment and deliverability of risks involved in such long and volatile franchises, as well as seeking assurances on our long held view that bids were typically won by aggressive revenue commitments from bidders relying on good spreadsheet skills rather than good rail business sense.

Britain's privatised railways a 'gigantic scam'

Seamus Milne writes in today's Guardian that renationalisation of the railway system could be the right way to go.

The solution could not be more obvious. It's to rebuild a publicly owned and integrated railway. That can be done at zero or minimal cost, by bringing back each franchise into public ownership as the contracts expire.

– Seamus Milne, the Guardian
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