MPs ask for West Coast line deal to be delayed


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The Independent Online

A Parliamentary select committee chairman yesterday asked the Government to delay signing off the deal which will see Sir Richard Branson's train company lose its West Coast Main Line rail franchise.

Sir Richard dubbed the franchise system "insane" after the Department for Transport (DfT) last week announced that Virgin Trains lost out to transport company FirstGroup in the battle to operate a 13-year West Coast franchise from December 2012.

The final contract papers for the deal are expected to be signed by Transport Secretary Justine Greening next Tuesday.

Yesterday, Louise Ellman, chairman of the House of Commons Transport Committee, wrote to Ms Greening asking her to hold off signing the final contract. Mrs Ellman wrote that the West Coast ruling raised "important issues about the basis on which decisions on major rail franchises are made".

The franchise decision could also be debated in the Commons after a petition calling for a re-think was signed by more than 100,000 people, which allows an MP to request time for a debate and possible vote on the issue.

The call for a re-think, submitted to the Government's e-petition website by Ross McKillop, said ministers "should look at more than the highest bidder – look what happened with G4S at London 2012".