Train operator plans derailed

MK Train Station
MK Train Station

TWO independent inquiries have been ordered after the collapse of FirstGroup’s deal for the West Coast Mainline.

The Government announced yesterday it had scrapped plans to allow FirstGroup to take over the route, which runs from London to Birmingham, from Virgin after ‘technical flaws’ were found in the competition process.

Andrew Pakes, Labour and Parliamentary spokesperson for MK slammed the decision stating it would lead to ‘yet more uncertainty for passengers.

He said: “The West Coast rail franchise fiasco has again exposed the shambolic approach of this Tory-led Government. Our two city MPs have spent months defending the vested interests of the big rail companies rather than speaking up for the needs of commuters and businesses.

“The real shambles here was only exposed thanks to the public outrage against the franchise decision and concerns about rocketing fares and poorer services.”

FirstGroup was set to take over in December with a fare increase a possibility in the new year.

The failed bidding process has cost £40 million.

Green Party transport spokesman, Alan Francis, called on the Government to transfer rail services to public ownership.

He said: “Since privatisation, public subsidy for rail services has more than doubled, while fares are higher than in any country in Europe.

“Rail is vital to the UK’s transport needs, and this latest debacle shows that not only are private companies unable to deliver a cost effective, reliable service to the public, even the system by which franchises are awarded does not work.”

MP Iain Stewart who represents Milton Keynes South, said: “As a local MP I am disappointed that there will be a delay in passengers seeing the improvements in service that the new franchise will deliver. FirstGroup were planning to stop more trains at MK Central, introduce new and refurbished trains and cut fares. I hope we will still see these benefits delivered as quickly as possible.”

And Mark Lancaster, MP for MK North, said: “My only interest is in ensuring an efficient and reasonably priced service for the residents; if there have been mistakes made by civil servants then the Secretary of State is absolutely right to call this process in.”

FirstGroup said it had submitted a ‘strong bid’ that would have delivered a better deal for passengers.”