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Farron welcomes Virgin West Coast Mainline contract extension

March 26, 2013 1:50 PM

Tim Farron MP & Cllr Andy Shine at Oxenholme StationSouth Lakes MP Tim Farron has welcomed the Government's announcement that Virgin Trains has been granted an extension of 2 years to its short term contract to run the West Coast Main Line until 2016, stating that it will offer some much needed 'stability'.

Speaking in the House of Commons today Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, set out or the first time ever a detailed transparent timetable for all rail franchises over the next 8 years. His statement included the announcement about the extension of Virgin Trains' contact as well as the future of the West Coast Main Line as well revealing the immediate start of the competition for the East Coast Main Line which has been under Government control since National Express failed on their contract in 2009.

The announcement follows months of chaos after the collapse of the bidding process, which ended in October last year, when the contract which had initially been awarded to FirstGroup was pulled following problems with the tendering process.

The Government's efforts to deliver on the recommendations laid out in the Brown Review, which was set up to carry out an urgent assessment of the implications of the flaws in the West Coast procurement process for the rest of the rail franchising programme, will mean the new programme provides a more sustainable schedule for rail franchising by delivering no more than three to four competitions per year.

The extension to Virgin Trains' contract is to ensure the staggering of the two principal Intercity franchises, West Coast and East Coast, so they will not be let at the same point in the economic cycle. The Transport Secretary made clear in his statement that during this process his department will look to negotiate further passenger benefits, which will ensure the best deal for taxpayers.

Commenting Tim said: "I welcome the Transport Secretary's announcement and his detailed timetable for the tendering of the contract for the railways which has long been needed. The extension to Virgin Trains' contract for the West Coast Main Line is good news, however I'm still concerned that the relatively short length of the contract may limit the investment Virgin is willing to make into the service.

"What the West Coast Main Line needs most at the moment is stability, which has been provided by the contract extension, but also a promise from Virgin of proper investment in improved rolling stock and improved quality of stations. I would also like to see Virgin demonstrate a commitment to improving timetabling for non-urban centres like Oxenholme in the Lake District so that passengers do not lose out."