Department for Transport officials are currently working closely with the rail industry on a number of options for increasing capacity on the west coast main line in the light of continuing growth of both passenger and freight business. In this connection, a formal proposal from Virgin Trains to lengthen the Pendolino trains has only now been received. A decision on this will be taken shortly.
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Further to the Written Answer by Lord Davies of Oldham on 9 January (WA 74), why they did not follow their stated policy of re-tendering franchises in the case of the west coast main line rather than renegotiating the franchise from a contribution of over £1 billion to the Government to a subsidy of £1,552 million over the period 2006 to 2012. [HL1366]
The Department for Transport does not renegotiate franchises. The original franchise agreement term was until 2012 and based on certain assumptions that Network Rail would deliver contractual commitments by 2005. The letter of agreement provided for services to continue to be provided while the reconfigured west coast modernisation project was completed. The reinstatement of the franchise agreement provides better value to the tax payer and benefits of continuity to the passenger than the buying-out of the franchise from Virgin and re-tendering through the franchise replacement process earlier than the contractual term ending in 2012.