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15 October 2012, 11:17
Virgin Trains are going to keep running services on the West Coast Mainline through places like Milton Keynes and Watford after the franchise given to First Group was cancelled.
That was done after civil servants at the Department for Transport got their sums wrong during the bidding process.
The current franchise is due to expire on 9 December 2012. After that, the government plan to keep Virgin as the operator for a short period – expected to be between 9 and 13 months – while a competition is run for an interim franchise agreement.
That interim agreement, which would be open to any bidders, will then run until the new long term West Coast franchise is ready to start.
The Government insist there will be 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.”
As well as cancelling the West Coast franchise bidding process, The Department for Transport has also paused the ongoing franchise programme for the Thameslink, Essex Thameside and Great Western routes.
Two independent reviews are also being set up into what went wrong with the West Coast competition and the wider DfT rail franchise programme.