Back in August, we posted that the UK government had taken the country's West Coast rail line—the main link between London and Scotland—out of Virgin Rail Group's control and awarded the $1.41 billion-a-year franchise to rival transport company FirstGroup PLC. This was significant because the route was the only one serviced by Virgin Rail.
Understandably, the decision was met with plenty of buzz, and Virgin fought the decision, seeking out a judicial review to force the Department for Transport to review the process by which the decision was made.
The review worked: Earlier this month, UK Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said that FirstGroup would not get the contract after all following a review of the selection process, and today, the Department for Transport said Virgin Trains will remain the West Coast Mainline operator for between nine and 13 months, before another competition is run to find out who will run the line on an interim basis. The details of when a new franchise agreement will be ready is not yet known, according to Virgin's website.
"The team have done a fantastic job getting through an uncertain period and all of us involved with Virgin Trains will try to make sure that the coming months are amongst the best of the last 15 years," CEO Richard Branson said on his blog. "Obviously we are not completely out of the woods yet, in that we are now in the strange situation of having two further contract bids to go through in the next two to three years…We look forward to continuing to improve the West Coast Mainline in the months - and hopefully years - to come."