The new West Coast mainline rail franchise in the UK, which has recently been granted to First Group, a Scotland based transportation company, will be signed later this week despite growing controversy over the decision.
Virgin Trains, a UK-based train company and the present operator of the franchise, has been running an electronic signature campaign to press for a parliamentary discussion against the granting of the operation of the West Coast line to First Group. The campaign has collected around 100,000 signatures to date.
However, transport secretary, Justine Greening, has said that the new contract will be signed soon and there is no chance of it being delayed despite the pressure tactics for a review that are being exerted by Virgin Trains.
Ms Greening said in an interview with the BBC, that, ‘If we want to move away from above-inflation fares, when it comes to franchising lucrative lines we’ve got to get a better deal for taxpayers, and that’s what we’ve done.
We do plan to push on with signing the contract with FirstGroup and I do suspect that, although I have a huge amount of respect for Virgin and the work they have done on the line, had they won the bid, they would have been perfectly happy with the process.’
Earlier, Tim O’Toole, the chief executive officer of First Group, said, ‘We are delighted to be selected by government to operate this unique railway which connects communities across the country and plays a vital role in the UK’s economic growth.
Our winning bid is a deliverable proposition that is compelling for all who want to see a greater use of our rail networks. We will be making significant improvements including reduced journey times and introducing new direct services.’