Virgin Trains lose West Coast Mainline contract through Rugby

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IT has been announced this morning (Wednesday) that Virgin Trains will no longer be running the West Coast Mainline through the town.

Virgin has lost the bid to continue running the line and will be replaced by rail operator FirstGroup.

FirstGroup, which already operates a number of rail routes including Great Western and ScotRail, has said it will offer substantial improvements to the service, including extra seats and trains.

Earlier this week Rugby MP Mark Pawsey wrote to Transport Secretary Justine Greening outlining his concerns regarding the future of rail services provided on by the West Coast Main Line.

Mr Pawsey said: “The quality and frequency of Rugby’s rail links both to the capital and across the country are very important to the prosperity of the town and its economy. Many businesses are located here because of our excellent transport links. I am pleased to say that in my two and a half years as Rugby’s MP, I have received no complaints about the level of service from the current operator.”

Following this morning’s announcement that FirstGroup would be taking over Mr Pawsey said he will personally be keeping a very close eye on the situation.

He said: “Time will tell. I very much hope they continue to provide a very good service.”

Virgin boss Richard Branson reacted angrily to the news in his blog posted online today.

He said: “The Government decision to award the West Coast Main Line Franchise to FirstGroup is extremely disappointing for Virgin, and for our staff that have worked so hard to transform this railway over the last 15 years. We submitted a strong and deliverable bid based on improving customers’ experience, increased investment and sustained innovation. To have bid more would have involved dramatic cuts to customer quality and considerable fare rises which we were unwilling to entertain.

I am immensely proud of our staff for turning the West Coast line from a heavily loss-making operation into one that will return the taxpayer billions in the years to come. Last year we paid a net premium of £160 million to the taxpayer and have created a franchise worth more than £6 billion which is hugely valuable to the country.

These achievements have counted for little – as this is the fourth time that we have been out-bid in a rail tender. On the past three occasions, the winning operator has come nowhere close to delivering their promised plans and revenue, and has let the public and country down dramatically. In the case of the East Coast Main line, both winners – GNER and National Express - over promised in order to win the franchise and spectacularly ran into financial difficulties in trying to deliver their plans. The East Coast is still in Government ownership and its service is outdated and underinvested, costing passengers and the country dearly as a result.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When will the Department for Transport learn?”

To read the full comment from Richard Branson click on the blue text ‘BLOG’ link below.