Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has promised to give passengers superior service on the west coast line between London and Glasgow if Virgin Trains wins the 14-year contact to run the route from the government. He added that it was important that the government did not repeat the mistake it made by awarding the east coast contract to the highest bidder.
In 2007, National Express won the east coast franchise by outbidding Virgin with a £1.4 billion offer. However, not two years later, the firm had to surrender the contract because it could not keep up with its contractual obligations.
Stagecoach group boss, Sir Brian Souter, whose firm has a 49 per cent stake in Virgin Trains, said if the company had won the bid it would have improved services between London and Edinburgh. Other companies in the running for the Glasgow route are French owned Keolis, and Dutch backed Abellio.
Sir Richard has warned the government to look at all criteria, not just how much money it would receive from the contract. He said that history proved that state backed operators often provided a poorer service. The billionaire added that the Virgin bid would be a late Christmas present for the Exchequer at a time when the UK was in need of investment.
Sir Richard said that he was waiting for the government to outline the requirements of the bidding process, but said that if Virgin were to be given the contract, passengers would see some dramatic improvements to services.