FirstGroup sure on West Coast


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The Independent Online

FirstGroup is preparing to take over the West Coast rail franchise on 9 December, dismissing Virgin Trains' hopes of retaining its grip on the lucrative line, the transport group insisted yesterday.

When the West Coast main line franchise from Scotland to Euston was awarded to FirstGroup in August, Sir Richard Branson, whose company had run the route since 1997, branded the decision "insanity" which would lead to "almost-certain bankruptcy".

Virgin Trains has lodged an application in the High Court for a judicial review. But First said it was not worried about a re-tendering process. "We have every confidence in the DfT's process," it said.

Ticket sales at First's rail arm rose 8.1 per cent during the half year. UK bus sales rose 2.5 per cent.