The Department for Transport (DfT) has today, Wednesday 15 August, announced that following a bidding competition, Virgin Rail Group will not be operating the new Intercity West Coast franchise which starts on 9 December 2012 and runs through to 31 March 2026.
The Franchise has been awarded to First Group who are said to have paid in the region of £5.5bn for the rights to run the route.
Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group stated “The Government decision to award the West Coast Main Line Franchise to FirstGroup is extremely disappointing for Virgin, and for our staff that have worked so hard to transform this railway over the last 15 years. We submitted a strong and deliverable bid based on improving customers’ experience, increased investment and sustained innovation. To have bid more would have involved dramatic cuts to customer quality and considerable fare rises which we were unwilling to entertain.
Tony Collins, Chief Executive of Virgin Rail Group, said today: “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 9 December.”