VIRGIN Trains look set to hold on to the West Coast mainline franchise for the forseeable future.
After the collapse of a deal with FirstGroup, which was due to commence on December 9, the Department for Transport has decided to negotiate with Virgin for them to continue to run the line for nine to 13 months.
During that time period a competition will be run for an interim franchise agreement, open to any bidders. This agreement would serve until a new long term West Coast franchiase is ready to commence.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, said: “The cancellation of the InterCity West Coast franchise is deeply regrettable and I apologise to the bidders involved and the taxpayer who have a right to expect better.
“My priority now is to fix the problem and the first step is to take urgent action to ensure that on December 9 services continue to run to the same standard and passengers are not affected.
“I believe Virgin remaining as operator for a short period of time is the best way to do this and my officials and I will be working flat out to make this happen.”
The previous competition, won by FirstDirect, was halted on October 3 after ‘significant technical flaws’ in the franchise process were found.
This morning, Labour’s Milton Keynes prospective parliamentary candidate Andrew Pakes wrote on Twitter: ‘This is getting crazy. After losing £40m in the cancelled bid, DfT says we will have two new rounds of franchising’.