UK Government assures passengers about West Coast mainline service
Train services between London and Glasgow will not be disrupted after 9th of December, the Department of Transport has assured.
The UK Department of Transport's assurance was announced by Scottish Transport Secretary Keith Brown in Holyrood, while responding to questions from MSPs.
The First Group was supposed to have taken over the franchise from Virgin Rail on the 9th of December 2012. However, earlier in the week, the Coalition government scrapped the deal after it was clear that there were fundamental flaws in the bidding process.
The Government has suspended three civil servants and two independent inquiries have been initiated to look into the fiasco. The West Coast mainline serves about 31 million people travelling between England and Scotland each year.
The Scottish Government and MSPs were concerned about the disruption of the service and the impact it would have on Scotland. Brown told Holyrood that he has been given assurance by the UK Department of Transport that services will run on time and would not be disrupted.
The Virgin Boss Richard Branson has also offered to run the services until the new bid has been sorted out. Sir Richard had lashed out when the First Group was awarded the deal and said the First Group’s bid was a recipe for “bankruptcy”.
Virgin had already taken the Government to court over this, and now the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has confirmed that his department will not contest the court action.
But Scottish Government and cross party MSPs are not happy being left in the dark about the bid, and Brown had the backing of almost the entire chamber when he criticised the fiasco of the bid process.
"I have still to see the detail of DfT's contingency plan, and it is still not clear who will be operating train services in December,” Brown told MSPs. "However, after finally managing to speak to the UK rail minister, I have his assurance that services will run to timetable, using the same trains and staff, and that tickets and bookings will be valid.”
"DfT Ministers stated yesterday that our administrations have "common interest" in making sure there is no break in the service for passengers after 9 December,” he added, pointing out that after the “mishandling of the franchise many people may be reluctant to give too much weight to DfT assurances.”
The Scottish Government has joined Labour’s call for taking back the West Coast mainline under government control at least until the new bid is sorted out.
But both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament reminded Mr Brown about SNP mishandling and wasting millions of taxpayers money while tendering for the “relatively small Borders rail project."