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Virgin to run West Coast line

Rail operator Virgin has been asked to continue running the West Coast Main Line for another 9-13 months. The Government's temporary fix comes after its u-turn over the award of a new franchise to First Great Western earlier this month.

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A timeline of the West Coast rail fiasco

  • In August, the Government announced Virgin had lost out to transport company FirstGroup in the bidding war to run a new 13-year West Coast franchise.
  • Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson reacted angrily to the decision, branding the bidding process "insane" and launching a legal challenge.
  • While preparing for the legal challenge, the Department of Transport discovered "significant technical flaws" in the franchise bidding.
  • Three civil servants are suspended as a result and the bidding competition is halted on October 3, crowning an embarrassing U-turn for the Government.
  • Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin tells a Commons Select Committee he was happy with the way the bidding had been conducted.
  • Virgin has today been offered an extension to run West Coast services for a "short period" of nine to 13 months while the bidding process is re-run.

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