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FirstGroup leading West Coast franchise race?

FirstGroup seems to be the frontrunner to win the next West Coast Main Line rail franchise, pushing incumbent Virgin Rail into second position, according to reports and industry speculation over the weekend.

The two operators have been vying for the contract, after rumours suggested the other two shortlisted bidders, Abellio and a bid backed by SCNF, were all but out of the running.

According to the Guardian, FirstGroup has offered the Department for Transport a premium of between £6.5bn and £7bn, over the 14-year span of the contract. This is reported to be 15-20% higher than Virgin’s bid.

However, rail franchises are judged on a number of criteria, and it is not known whether the largest premium bid is enough to guarantee the contract.

FirstGroup said: “We do not comment on speculation or market rumours of any kind. All decisions relating to the tendering of rail franchises are the responsibility of the Department for Transport.”

And Virgin Rail stated: “We do not comment on our franchise bids.”

A final decision on the contract is expected in August.

The RMT union has jumped on the speculation, with its general secretary Bob Crow saying: “If the rumours that First Group are now in pole position on the West Coast turn out to be true it will prove that there is no outrage that one of these greedy rail companies can perpetrate on the British people that will get them barred from the franchising casino.

“First pulled the pin on the Great Western route to dodge £800m in payments back to the taxpayer and here they are just months later sitting pretty on the West Coast deal. If they pull this off it will turn the UK rail industry into a global laughing stock and the British taxpayer will be rightly outraged.”

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

Image c. Kevin R Boyd


Peter   31/07/2012 at 10:14

Why does everyone go to Bob Crow for a quote on every rail news story? You know what he will say, and as usual it's a totally biased misrepresentation of the facts. First did not "dodge £800m in payments back to the taxpayer", they exercised their contractual right to stop paying the government while making a loss. If Bob Crow was really worried about the taxpayer he'd get out of his subsidised housing, that he clearly doesn't need on his £150k salary.

Mikeb   31/07/2012 at 12:41

If First Group are successful, all Pendolinos and Voyagers will have to be taken out of service over a period of time for changes into First's corporate livery - both exterior and interior. How much will this cost and who will pay?

Andy158   08/08/2012 at 02:30

I really hope First don't win. After reading what they did to onboard services at Great Western, and the cramming in of additional seats with the removal of tables, I think I'd go back to flying or driving down. Just look what Arriva have done with crosscountry.

Sartinderd   13/08/2012 at 20:21

I work for Great Wstern, a dreadfull, unprofessonal company, with senior management totally incompetent, massive in house bitching and fighting, appalling staff rooms, zero value for all staff, zero motivation for staff, they are the only company in the UK who do not do regular staff appraisals, awful working environments, (trains), a very mean greedy company who do not even give staff a £5 gift voucher at Christmas, neither do they give you free travel on their OWN doesn't get worse than this. Yet Virgin Trains is visibly professionally run, they value their staff highly and prove that by offering concessions to all their employees. They have done so much real hardwork to make Virgin what it is today, to suddenly have it taken away from them and given to a cheap bus operator who have no idea of airline industry high standards, like Branson does.

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