UK Transport Minister Defends West Coast Rail Franchise Contract

The UK government is all set to defend its decision to award the West Coast mainline franchise to First Group, a Scotland-based transportation company, in spite of a court action filed by its erstwhile operator, Virgin Trains.

The UK’s transport minister up until today, Theresa Villiers, defended the government’s decision in a written statement to the House of Commons earlier, saying, ‘I believe that the commitments in First West Coast’s bid represent significant improvements for passengers and will provide a good return for the taxpayer.

As a result of a legal challenge, which the government intends to defend robustly, we have not yet signed the contract with First West Coast, and consequently the competition remains live.

I cannot give the full commercial details of the winning bid, or indeed of the other bids. Nor is it usual or appropriate – once litigation proceedings have commenced – for the government to comment on the detail of that, other than to say that our legal advisers are fully engaged in addressing and responding to those proceedings.’

Earlier, Virgin Trains had commenced court proceedings, against the government for its decision to award the West Coast Main Line franchise to FirstGroup

Tony Collins, the chief executive officer of Virgin Rail Group, said, ‘We have had several meetings over the last two or three years where we have expressed our concerns over the bid process, how it (Department for Transport) evaluates the bids and how it leads to the sorts of failures we have seen on the East Coast with National Express and GNER.’