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Saturday, June 6, 2020

Virgin confirms legal action over West Coast decision

Virgin has announced that it will proceed with legal action against the British government over its decision to award the West Coast franchise to FirstGroup.

A statement on the company’s website said: “We have tried for three weeks to get clarity over the Department for Transport’s decision and to have a number of key questions answered. On each occasion we have been refused information.”

We are left with no choice but to commence court proceedings as we believe the procurement process has ignored the substantial risks to taxpayers and customers of delivering FirstGroup’s bid over the course of the franchise.

Virgin, who have run services on the West Coast Mainline since 1997, has criticised First’s bid, describing it as undeliverable.

This morning Transport Secretary Justine Greening said the Department for Transport would go ahead with plans to finalise the new contract in the next couple of days despite Virgin’s appeals.

The statement added: “We are left with no choice but to commence court proceedings as we believe the procurement process has ignored the substantial risks to taxpayers and customers of delivering FirstGroup’s bid over the course of the franchise.”

Sir Richard Branson, Founder Virgin Group, said: “We had hoped that Parliament or an external review would be able to scrutinise this badly flawed process before the franchise was signed.

“However that opportunity would be denied if the DfT follows through with its determination to rush through the process before Parliament returns next week.

“That ignores the wishes of more than 150,000 people who signed the Downing Street e-petition in 10 days, the Labour opposition, two important Commons committees and many backbench Conservative MPs who wanted a debate before the decision is taken, not a post-mortem afterwards.

“We have not taken this decision lightly, but it is the only course now available to try to unravel this sorry process.”

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