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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

FirstGroup awarded West Coast franchise

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FirstGroup has ousted Virgin to become the new operator of the West Coast Mainline.

First West Coast Limited will take over the service in December and will operate on the route until 2026.

Rail unions have raised concerns that the new operator will need to raise fares and cut staff to meet the return target outlined in its business plan.

First has announced that it plans to introduce 11 new six-car electric trains to increase capacity on the London to Glasgow route.

The franchise, which stretches from London to Glasgow, connecting Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Edinburgh, Lancaster and Chester, has been run by Virgin since 1997.

In a statement, Richard Branson said it was “extremely unlikely” that Virgin would bid for a new franchise under the current system.

Tony Collins, chief executive of Virgin Rail Group, said: “Naturally, we are all very disappointed by today’s announcement.  We had submitted a strong, deliverable bid with emphasis on customer service which would have produced strong growth over the life of the franchise resulting in significant benefits for the taxpayer through generous premium payments to Government.

“Our focus for the remaining four months of the current franchise will be to continue to offer a high quality service to our customers, who we would like to thank for their loyalty over the past 15 years, and hand over a healthy and efficient franchise to the new operator on December 9.”

Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said: “This new franchise will deliver big improvements for passengers, with more seats and plans for more services. Targets to meet on passenger satisfaction will be introduced for the first time in an InterCity rail franchise and passengers will also benefit from smart ticketing and from investment in stations.

“The West Coast is the first of the new longer franchises to be let by the Coalition which has helped us secure real benefits for passengers by encouraging First West Coast Limited to invest in the future of the service.”


  1. The 11 extra 6 set cars will not be introduced until Dec 2016 which by my reckoning means it’s goin to be 4 years before the extra seats on the network. What I would like to see is a franchise that doesn’t force me on a 5.51am or 6.11am train as it considers it off peak and doesn’t make me get back on it before 2.30pm or after 7.30pm to get an off peak fare

  2. As a customer of Virgin Rail and having used most of the rail services over the past 2 years, I can say categorically that by a very long distance Virgin trains comfort, price and customer service is by far the best. It’s been a pleasure to travel on the West Coast line. It will be interesting to see if FirstGroup manage to deliver but I rather think this is yet another stupid decision by the Department of transport


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