Virgin Trains handed 23 month West Coast extension

Virgin Trains handed 23 month West Coast extension

Ministers at the department of transport attempted to quell unrest among rail passengers earlier by offering a series of sops to commuters.

Announcing Virgin Trains would run the West Coast Mainline for another 23 months, following the botched tender process, department officials confirmed the service would now feature 28,000 more seats a day.

The new franchise agreement will run for up to 23 months after which the West Coast Main Line will be let under a long-term franchise.

It coincides with the early completion of a government-backed deal to roll out 106 new Pendolino carriages, providing passengers with four new 11-carriage trains and lengthening 31 existing trains from nine carriages to 11.

A new hourly service between London and Glasgow will also be introduced.

Patrick McLoughlin said: “We are determined to ensure not only that passengers continue to experience the same levels of service they have in the past, but that services improve.

“There will be a new hourly service linking Glasgow and London and we will also work with Virgin Trains to explore other service improvements.

“I am also extremely pleased that passengers will benefit from up to 28,000 more seats daily thanks to the delivery of 106 new Pendolino carriages onto the West Coast Main Line which has happened on budget and ahead of schedule.

The department for transport has been forced to restart the tender process for the long-term franchise after the initial process collapsed.

After awarding a £5 billion contract to First Group in October, ministers were forced to backtrack with the department having made numerical mistakes.

Three officials were suspended, while an enquiry into the collapsed tendering process was led by Centrica chief executive Sam Laidlaw.

The report talked of officials not following their own guidelines, not treating the bidders equally, failing to include inflation in their figures and ignoring warnings of possible problems months before the deal capsised.