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UK: Bidding for West Coast rail franchise faces further delays

 |  November 24, 2015

Virgin Trains is set to operate the West Coast Main Line until at least 2018 after the Government delayed the competition for the next contract, a move that could potentially hurt bidding for the franchise, the National Audit Office warned.

The Department for Transport has pushed back the date at which it will solicit expressions of interest for the contract from next month to June, a delay disclosed in a document published on Friday but went largely unnoticed.

It is the second time the competition to run services between London and Glasgow has been postponed, with the contest originally due to start in August.

Virgin Trains, a joint venture between Sir Richard Branson’s company and Stagecoach that has operated the West Coast since 1997, was last year awarded a new contract to continue running it until the end of March 2017, although the DfT has the option to extend it by a year.

The Government now looks set to exercise that option after the latest delay, although a spokesman for Virgin Trains said it was awaiting formal confirmation of the extension from the DfT. Virgin intends to bid for the next contract when the competition starts.

The delay means train companies must now weigh up bids for four different rail contracts in less than a year. That risks harming competition for all of the franchises up for grabs, the NAO said.

Full content: Yahoo! News

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