Posted 28th August 2012 | 2 Comments

West Coast franchise confirmed by Greening

THE TRANSPORT SECRETARY Justine Greening has confirmed that the new Intercity West Coast contract will be signed with FirstGroup as planned. The decision means that she has decided to set aside the mounting wave of criticism, which included a call to put the process on hold by the Commons Transport Committee.

She said the new contract represented a 'good deal for taxpayers'.

The controversial £5.5 billion franchise can be signed-off after midnight tonight, which is when a 14-day 'cooling off' period expires.

The deal had been questioned by losers Virgin as well as opposition Labour MPs and two Commons Select Committees, while more than 150,000 people have signed a public e-Petition calling for the matter to be debated by the House of Commons.

It has been reported that Virgin could challenge the award of the franchise to First by petitioning for a judicial review, but it would need to start the legal process before the new contract is finally signed.

FirstGroup has continued to defend its proposals. They include the payment of £5.5 billion-worth of premiums at net present value over 13 years and four months, which is £700 million more than Virgin's offer, as well as 11 new 6-car trains, services to new destinations, lower Standard Anytime fares and a new intermediate class between Standard and First.

First is also insisting that its predictions of revenue are realistic and achievable. Vernon Barker, the managing director of FirstGroup Rail, told Railnews that he considered Virgin's interventions and criticisms 'outrageous', because they had caused West Coast staff needless concern about their jobs.

Meanwhile Richard Branson, who described the franchise letting process as 'insanity' after FirstGroup's victory was announced, had offered to run West Coast temporarily on a not-for-profit basis to allow time for the proposed contract to be reconsidered. He has also revealed that Virgin is planning to launch new air routes from London to Manchester and Scotland.

FirstGroup is due to take over Intercity West Coast from Virgin on 9 December.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Billy Bell, Beith, UK

    After 100,000 signatures are received on an epetition consideration must be given to having a debate in parliament. It is not the rule that a debate must be had after 100,000 signatures. The key word is 'consideration'.

    A fair and equal process has now been concluded. The winner was first group and the runner up was Virgin trains. You don't hear any of the other 2 bidders in the process complaining about losing out.

    Let's move on and remember first group now have to deliver and have promised a much improved service. I don't see what people have to complain about?

    Better deal for taxpayers, better service for customers, new trains, reduced fares, better frequency and it all came about via a bidding process open to all companies. And it seems people are still not happy. This is not a popularity contest, Branson.

  • David Tweedale, Llandudno

    I live close to the West Coast Main Line (Holyhead) and have seen that there have now been more than 150,000 e petitions that there should be a debate in Parliament before the Contract is signed.

    My understanding is that there is a 'Downing Street Rule' on such and issue which determines that there has to be a debate if any matter receives at least 100,000 on a subject.

    It would therefore seem that there should be a delay in the signing and I also believe that the Public most affected by such a decision should have the opportunity to fully consider the Tenders and where appropriate to scrutinise the content of such with the Providers.