Latest Rail News


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.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Mikeyb   03/08/2012 at 11:27

I think Virgin have done quite well to turn what was a shambolic service into a relatively successful one. Upon reflection however, I believe that Branson has made a big mistake by publically speaking out against the bid submitted by First Group and it may cost Virgin the franchise. It seems as if he thinks that First's bid may be better and he is frightened of losing. Perhaps the only way to stop any future such arguments is re-nationalisation!

Keith   04/08/2012 at 12:33

A case of, lets bid for a sound operation in case we don't get our present one again. Both Virgin and FGW have turned their respective operations around, maybe it's time to let them carry on as they are, improving for the railway, passengers, oh; and even maybe the good ole tax payer. Just further highlights the disjointed railway we now have.

Tam   06/08/2012 at 22:21

i work on the maintenance of the trains and everyone (except senior management) cant wait until first win. the things that are allowed is a disgrace on the maintenance side and we are all hoping first remove alstom and employ enough people to provide a safe service which isnt being carried out at the moment due to mainly money

Add your comment


Rail industry Focus

View all News


The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >

Most Read

'the sleepers' blog

On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

29/06/2020On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

Following an independent audit, Sulzer’s Nottingham Service Centre has been accepted as part of the rail industry supplier approval scheme (RISAS). The accreditation reinforces the high-quality standards that are maintained by Sulzer’s... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he would not rule out his organisation issuing future r... more >
Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

08/05/2019Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

In answering the pressing questions of how current and future generations of managers can provide solutions to high-profile infrastructure projects across the UK, Pearson Business School, part of... more >