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Entrepreneurs Panel

Richard O'Sullivan
David Pollock
Tony Caldeira
Michael Oliver
Julie Meyer
Steve Purdham
Charlie Mullins
Jennie Johnson
Debbie Pierce
Brian Hay
Laura Tenison
Jeremy Roberts

West Coast Main Line contract put on hold

The Government has not signed the contract to hand over the West Coast Main Line franchise to FirstGroup because of a legal challenge by Virgin Group.

FirstGroup was awarded the contract, which is due to start on 9 December, last month after its bid beat that of current operator Virgin Rail.

Theresa Villiers, minister of state for transport, said that the Government intends to “robustly defend” the legal challenge.

She added, “We have not yet signed the contract 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.

Virgin has operated the West Coast since 1997 but Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, demanded a review when it lost out to FirstGroup.

Sir Richard said he was “extremely disappointed” that the Government decided to award the franchise to FirstGroup.

He explained that Virgin did not put in a higher bid for the franchise because he did not want to risk letting everybody down with “almost certain bankruptcy at some time during the franchise as happened to GNER and National Express who overbid".

By Kirsty Hewitt

West Coast Main Line contract put on hold
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