The Department for Transport will negotiate with Virgin Rail Group for them to continue providing rail services on the West Coast Main Line for a temporary period. The current franchise is due to expire on 9 December after which it is the government’s intention that Virgin remain as operator for a short period – expected to be between 9 and 13 months – while a competition is run for an interim franchise agreement. This interim agreement, which would be open to any bidders, will then run until the new long term West Coast franchise is ready to commence.
The government believes that this is the best way to ensure services are maintained and that there is no impact on passengers.
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 the 9 December 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.”
On 3 October the previous competition to run trains on this line was cancelled following the discovery of significant technical flaws in the way the franchise process was conducted.
The department also paused the on-going franchise programme including live competitions on Essex Thameside, Great Western and Thameslink and set up two independent reviews into what went wrong with the West Coast competition and the wider DfT rail franchise programme.