Virgin West Coast deal expected

Updated: 
VirginA deal to allow Sir Richard Branson's train company Virgin Rail to temporarily carry on running trains on the West Coast Main Line is expected to be announced by the Government on Thursday.

And it is believed that Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin may also publish the independent report he commissioned into the scrapped West Coast franchise bidding process.


Virgin has run the line, which takes passengers from London to Scotland, since 1997, but in August the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that a new 13-year West Coast franchise had been awarded not to Virgin but to rival transport company FirstGroup.

It was only after Sir Richard, who had branded the bidding process "insane", had mounted a legal challenge to the decision that Mr McLoughlin scrapped the bidding process, saying there had been mistakes by the DfT.

Three DfT officials were suspended and negotiations were started with a view to getting Virgin to run the line for between nine and 13 months before a short interim franchise was offered followed by a longer one later.

When he pulled the plug on the West Coast franchise bidding, Mr McLoughlin appointed businessman Sam Laidlaw to produce an independent report into the fiasco.

After producing damning initial findings, which listed failings by the DfT, Mr Laidlaw presented his full report to the department last week.

But with one of the suspended department officials, Kate Mingay, mounting a legal challenge to her suspension, Mr McLoughlin announced that he was delaying the Laidlaw report publication until this week.

Mr Laidlaw had been due to appear before the House of Commons Transport Committee this week, but MPs will now hear his evidence on December 18.

The committee's chairman, Louise Ellman, criticised the DfT over the delay.

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