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Virgin to run West Coast Line for next few months

Virgin to run West Coast Line for next few months

Virgin is set to continue operating trains on the West Coast Main Line into next year after the government scrapped a decision to strip it of the franchise amid a flawed bidding process.

The Department for Transport is expected to agree a “temporary” contract that would allow Virgin to run services for a further nine to 13 months.

Virgin’s current franchise is due to expire in December.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “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.”

A Virgin Trains spokesman said: “Our customers have made clear they want us to continue our excellent service and we now have the chance to deliver that and offer customers some short-term continuity.

“We will now be working hard to make sure we continue to provide the service that has made us successful. We are grateful for the fantastic support from customers and staff over recent months.”

Virgin Rail — 51-percent owned by Virgin Group and 49-percent by transport firm Stagecoach — has been running the route, which serves 31 million passengers, since 1997.

The government had announced plans to hand the franchise for the next 13 years to FirstGroup.

But it was forced to U-turn earlier this month after serious flaws were discovered in the bidding process.

These included mistakes in the way that passenger numbers and inflation were taken into account, leading to a miscalculation of how much money bidders were asked to guarantee.

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