FirstGroup bid would ‘cut quality’ – Branson
Following reports that FirstGroup is beating Virgin Rail in the competition to run the West Coast Main Line franchise from December, founder Richard Branson has reportedly written to the transport secretary to warn of potential cuts to services.
Speculation that FirstGroup would offer the Government around £7bn – around £1bn more than Virgin – led to claims that the company was the front-runner for the 14-year contract.
If FirstGroup wins the bid, Virgin will no longer be operating any train services in the UK.
Branson reportedly wrote to Justine Greening in a letter copied to Prime Minister David Cameron, asserting that the only way FirstGroup can justify its bid is to drastically cut the quality of services.
Rail union RMT has warned of the possibility of the franchise cutting catering services, the on-board shop and reducing the number of first class coaches.
The letter reads: “We submitted a strong and deliverable bid based on improving the customers’ experience through increased investment and innovation.
“Our team has transformed the West Coast line over the last 15 years from a heavily loss-making operation to one that will return the taxpayer billions in years to come.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We are evaluating bids and, as it’s a live competition, we cannot comment.”
The winner is expected to be announced later this month.
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