Virgin Awarded West Coast Main Line Franchise Extension to the End of 2012

Virgin Trains has at long last been awarded the franchise extension by The Department for Transport (DfT) that they had been lobbying for over the last few years.

Longer Pendolinos to be Introduced by Virgin as Part of the Deal

It has taken some effort for the DfT to award Virgin Trains a Franchise Extension of just eight months thus ensuring continuity of operation during the introduction of the longer class 390 Pendolino trains.

Virgin had long argued that it made sense for them to manage the introduction of the two coach longer trains as they introduced the tilting train into service a decade ago, so had the experience required.

It also means that as with the Greater Anglia Franchise award, Olympic services would not be at risk with a new operator running the trains during the Olympic period.

What it does mean is that there will undoubtedly be an extra cost to taxpayers for both short-term decisions which flies in the face of the McNulty report trying to reduce costs.

Stagecoach have said that they may generate no more than £20m from the 8 month extension, the WCML Franchise is 51% owned by Virgin and 49% by Stagecoach. If the introduction goes well, then it would place them in pole position for being awarded the next franchise which will probably run until 2026.

Fares are due to increase by up to 8% on some WCML routes and by tinkering with ticket restrictions, could generate the extra revenue demanded by the DfT.

This would also be helped if the DfT target of increasing passengers by 11% is met, assisted by the two extra coaches in each train.

The shortlisted bidders such as French Railways will no doubt be keeping a close watch on progress!

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