The Green Party believes that the Government has wasted a chance to improve rail travel for millions of train users.
Transport Speaker, Alan Francis said that Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s decision to allow Virgin Rail to continue running the West Coast rail franchise shows ‘a lack of desire to take the simplest route to better rail transport, re-nationalisation.’
He said: “We’re disappointed the Government has handed the franchise back to Virgin for another year, just as we were disappointed when it announced it would hand it to FirstGroup.
“Privatised rail is failing the people of this country, and the Government has wasted a chance to take back into public ownership - at no cost - one of the most important transport routes in the country.”
“InterCity trains serving Milton Keynes Central will continue to be operated by Virgin for the next year but after that it will be all up in the air again.”
The announcement, which gives the franchise to Virgin for another nine to 13 months, was made in response to the collapse of the bidding process to run the route until December 2025. There will then be bidding for a short franchise for two years followed by bidding for a longer franchise for 15 years.
Alan said: “It is ludicrous to have three rounds of bidding in the space of three years. The massive cost of this will be paid either by the taxpayer or the rail passenger and they will get no benefit from it. The bidding process is inherently flawed so it’s likely to go wrong again. And the possibility of two changes of control in quick succession will cause upheaval for staff and passengers. Rail privatisation has been a hugely expensive failure, costing us more than £1billion each year. It is time the Government admitted this and put the privatised railway out of its misery.”
On October 3, the Government was forced to admit it had miscalculated when deciding to hand the franchise to FirstGroup, and reversed its decision.
As a result, the Government has agreed to refund £40m to the four firms, including Virgin and FirstGroup, who originally bid to run the West Coast mainline.