Virgin Trains has confirmed it will continue to operate the West Coast franchise for an interim period until November 2014.
Virgin had been expected to remain as the operator of the line in the short term, following the announcement in October that the Department for Transport would “negotiate with Virgin Rail Group for them to continue providing rail services on the West Coast Main Line for a temporary period” (see online news October 15).
A 23-month extension has now been confirmed, with Virgin Trains continuing to operate the franchise from December 9 (when its current agreement ends) until November 9, 2014, when the franchise will be let under a long-term agreement.
However a clause states that the DfT is able to shorten this interim agreement agreement by up to six months “if a subsequent franchise can be let on a shorter timescale”.
As part of the agreement Virgin Trains will “add improvements to services, including better station facilities, onboard enhancements and an improved compensation scheme for customers who suffer delayed journeys”.
Earlier this year the government awarded the West Coast mainline franchise to First Group, but the contract was subsequently cancelled “following the discovery of significant technical flaws in the way the franchise process was conducted” (see online news October 3).
For more information visit virgintrains.co.uk.
Report by Mark Caswell