The Department of Transport emerged from the secretive franchise awarding process this week with the news that First Group have outbid Virgin for the right to run the west coast service between Manchester, London and Glasgow from this December until 2026.
There’s a fair bit of trepidation about the kind of service First will provide – they’re judged to have done a decent job on the Transpennine franchise but there have been nightmare stories of overcrowding on their other franchises, including Great Western which they walked away from for the last 3 years of the francise.
What is for certain is that both companies spent a vast amount of money bidding for the franchise (Virgin alone spent £14m) – money that many passengers would rather had been spent on improving services.
It’s also clear that millions more will be spent on re-branding the route, from repainting the trains and stations, giving staff new uniforms, down to redesigning all the publicity and brochures.
No wonder railway costs are so high in the UK …