Virgin Rail has lost its bid to continue running the West Coast Mainline and will be replaced by the UK's largest rail operator, FirstGroup. A disappointed Sir Richard Branson said Virgin would "almost definitely back out" of bidding for more franchises.FirstGroup said it would "offer substantial improvements in the quality and frequency of services".
Rail unions warned they would resist any attempts to cut staff pay or working conditions. Aberdeen-based FirstGroup already operates a number of rail routes including Great Western and ScotRail.
From BBC News website
My job requires me, on occasion, to travel down to Preston in Lancashire to my company's head office. I travel down by train on the west coast mainline and it's fair to say few of my trips with Virgin Rail have been without incident. From broken toilets, unreserved seats and overcrowding to late trains and quite awful communications, Sir Richard Branson's company can hardly be described as leading the way in rail travel. Having suffered several times as a result of their incompetence I was pleased but not exactly surprised that they have lost the franchise to run trains on the west coast of Britain after 14 years. However, my satisfaction at Virgin finally getting their comeuppance was soon eroded by the news that Virgin are to be replaced by those other bastions - I said 'bastions' - of public transport. Yes, step forward First Group.
Since my change in personal circumstances at the start of this year, I haven't had cause to rant about Worst Group principally because I no longer have the need to use their shockingly poor bus services. That and the fact Worst Group have sought to address falling passengers numbers in Midlothian - by withdrawing their services altogether thereby leaving people who require public transport out on a limb. The good folk of Dalkeith, Mayfield and Gorebridge who had relied on the ramshackle number 86 service for decades were told by Worst Group several months ago their bus service was being withdrawn. The attitude of the First Edinburgh bus chiefs appeared to be - tough. Thankfully, Lothian Buses have stepped in and, by all accounts, have improved the services in Midlothian no end.
On Tuesday came the announcement that rail fares in Scotland are to rise by around 4%. Lo and behold, 24 hours later Worst Group are awarded the west coast mainline. May I say to the people who presently use the line that I hope they continue to use the service in good numbers. If not, be prepared for Worst Group to apply their simple business plan. That is, if passengers numbers fall (and this is more than likely if their track record of reliability on the buses is anything to go by) then services will be reduced and then withdrawn altogether. It has happened with alarming frequency with the bus services in Edinburgh and Mid and East Lothian.
Don't be surprised if, a few years from now, there won't be a west coast mainline. And, if that happens, I will not be able to travel to Preston.
It's not all bad news then...