Virgin Trains has today issued the following statement in response to the news its bid for the West Coast Partnership has been disqualified.
A Virgin Trains spokesperson said: "We’re very disappointed by the DfT’s unexpected decision. We’ve led the industry for more than twenty years with our ground-breaking innovations, such as automatic delay repay, and award-winning customer service.
"We’re studying the DfT’s decision carefully to understand why they’ve taken this action and would like to reassure all our customers that they can still book and travel as normal.
Virgin have been running trains since 1997 on the West Coast said it is shocked by the decision that Department for Transport are saying the decision is linked to problems with covering staff pensions under the company's current bid.
Stagecoach has been banned by the Government from competing for three rail franchises because of a row over pensions.
The train and bus operator said it was verbally informed by the Department for Transport that it has been disqualified from three UK rail franchise competitions - East Midlands, South Eastern and the West Coast.
Bidders for the franchises were asked to bear the full long-term funding risk on relevant sections of the Railways Pension Scheme, Stagecoach said.
It added that the Pensions Regulator is seeking additional funding because of "serious doubts" over the Government's ongoing support for the industry-wide scheme.
Stagecoach chief executive Martin Griffiths said: "We are extremely concerned at both the DfT's decision and its timing.
The Department has had full knowledge of these bids for a lengthy period and we are seeking an urgent meeting to discuss our significant concerns.
"The Pensions Regulator has indicated that an additional £5 billion to £6 billion would be needed to plug the gap in train company pensions."
The rail industry proposed solution would have delivered an additional £500 million to £600 million into the scheme.
This, Mr Griffiths said, would have provided "better stability and security for members" and better value for taxpayers.
"We are shocked that the Government has rejected this for a higher-risk approach. We would urge that a full independent value-for-money review is undertaken into this issue without delay."
Stephen Brookes MBE, BA(hons) for the Rail Sector Champion & the Minister for Disabled People contacted nodrog to express his concerns.
"I think many customer users of the West Coast main line will be concerned at the announcement that Virgin and Stagecoach are disqualified from bidding for the new West Coast Rail franchise.
As a regular user I have found the Virgin trains customer service model to be particularly good, with staff ready to go that extra mile for passengers. I trust that financial requirements and pressures will not lead to a reduction in the massively important customer service the line requires. "
What now? This obviously leaves the bid open to other rail operators with the sign of GNWR already given a contract to start in Dec 19. This will leave a hole in the service from Blackpool to London.
Will this effect you? Whats your thoughts? Comment and 'like' below.