Government admits Virgin holding up West Coast contract

Laura Kuenssberg

Former Business Editor

The government will 'robustly defend' their position on the contract Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Train companies should by rights be embarassed to be the cause of delays. Virgin tonight might however be rather pleased they have caused one.

The Government has had to admit to MPs that they have not yet been able to sign the contract with First Group for the lucrative West Coast Main Line.

Virgin Trains lodged a legal challenge last week having lost the bid.

The admission does not actually change the situation. We knew Government lawyers were manoeuvring behind the scenes to sort out the legal tangle but it was clear, until they had done so, the contract would not be signed.

They are at this stage, confident it will happen, and will "robustly defend" their decision.

But it is frustrating for ministers to have to tell MPs the deed is not yet done.

And at this stage, although First Group insists they are 'very relaxed' about the problem, there is no way of telling how long it could take.