Virgin West Coast franchise extended

03 November 2011

Theresa Villiers, the Minister of State for Transport, has announced that the next InterCity West Coast franchise will begin on 9 December next year, and so it has extended the franchise of West Coast Trains and Virgin Rail Group from the due expiry date of 1 April 2012 until the start of the new franchise.

The government statement says that three new 600-seat Pendolino trains will be added to the line over the course of the (eight month) extension, a statement ASLEF considers bizarre. Why would you get three new trains if your franchise was due to expire a few months later?

Equally odd is the government claim that lengthening 31 of the existing Pendolinos from nine to 11 carriages ‘will increase the number of standard class seats on each train by almost 50%, from 320 to 470’.

‘The government statement is shrouded in mystery,’ says ASLEF general secretary. ‘But so is the whole franchising system, so we should hardly expect more. It really is time to look again at this strange, convoluted and expensive arrangement.’

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