Long-term West Coast deal may not be settled until 2016

Virgin asked to keep running line until new contest can be held after franchise fiasco

The West Coast Main Line between London and Scotland could be operated by up to three different rail companies within four years as a result of the Government's franchising fiasco, it emerged yesterday.

The Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said yesterday his department was negotiating with Virgin Trains for the company to continue running West Coast services for the next nine to 13 months. But instead of following that with a new long-term deal, the Government will instead hold a competition for another two-year franchise. It would only be after that, Mr McLoughlin suggested, that a long-term contract would be signed.

The new timetable has led to fears from MPs that the delays will result in long-term investment decisions on the West Coast line being put off. There are also concerns that having said that Virgin will keep running the line for the next year, the Government is now in a weak bargaining position with the company over the terms of the deal.

In his statement to the House of Commons, Mr McLoughlin also confirmed reports in yesterday's Independent that there had been significant staff cutback in his department in the run-up to the franchise fiasco. Documents show that dozens of directors including the head of procurement were "eliminated" as part of an aggressive cost-cutting programme, while another 400 more junior posts were closed.

However, Mr McLoughlin insisted that the job cuts had been "absolutely necessary" because of the "economic circumstances" that the Government found itself. He did not comment on claims that this had contributed to what he described as "very serious" mistakes being made in the franchising process.

But citing The Independent report, the shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle claimed the problems had been caused by the cuts being made "too far and too fast". "This was a franchise fiasco made by ministers," she said. "The result [is] chaos across the rail industry and tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money down the drain, the direct consequence of action taken by ministers."

Mr McLoughlin said he did not want to pre-judge two inquiries which he established in the wake of the cancellation of the West Coast franchise but insisted that he did not believe the overall franchise system was flawed. "I want to restate the Government's commitment to ensuring that we continue to have private sector innovation and investment in the railways," he said. "This growth brings significant benefits to the country's economy and to the environment, relieving congestion, improving connectivity for businesses, commuters and leisure travellers. I want to see these benefits continue. That is why I want this pause while the reviews are carried out to be as short as possible."

Mr McLoughlin added that he hoped that delays in other franchise competitions – due to in the next few months – would not be too severe and refused to speculate over the final cost of the problems to the taxpayer.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

PE Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary PE Teacher (maternity cover) f...

English Intervention Teacher

£23000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: English Intervention Teac...

Teacher of Citizenship and RE

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Teacher of Citizenship and REMaternity L...

English Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary English Teacher for a academy ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments