Virgin raised franchise concerns before West Coast loss

Virgin bosses have claimed that they challenged the franchise bid system years before losing control of the West Coast Mainline.

Chief executive Tony Collins has responded to accusations of sour grapes by Transport Secretary Justine Greening, claiming that Virgin had met with the Department for Transport (DfT) numerous times over the last couple of years to discuss possible reforms to the franchise system.

We have had several meetings over the last two or three years where we have expressed our concerns over the bid process, how it evaluates the bids and how it leads to the sorts of failures we have seen on EC with NatEx and GNER.

Tony Collins, chief executive of Virgin Rail Group, said: ‘There must be some misunderstanding at DfT. We have had several meetings over the last two or three years where we have expressed our concerns over the bid process, how it evaluates the bids and how it leads to the sorts of failures we have seen on EC with NatEx and GNER.

“We certainly have dates of meetings, follow-up letters and obviously our notes of what was discussed.”

First Group was awarded the West Coast franchise on August 15. Since then, Virgin has campaigned against the decision describing First’s bid as ‘unrealistic’.

An official contract signing was due to take place last week but was delayed after Virgin applied for a judicial review of the decision. A High Court judge will now rule on whether there are grounds for a legal challenge.

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