Shropshire’s direct rail link to London faced new delays today after the Government scrapped its decision to award the West Coast Main Line to operator First Group.
FirstGroup beat Virgin Trains to win the 13-year contract to run the West Coast service from London to Scotland in August – and immediately pledged to reinstate a direct link from Shrewsbury and Telford to the capital by 2016.
Both Virgin and First Group had promised to provide a direct rail service from Shropshire to the capital should they have ended up with the franchise.
Today, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the competition to run trains on the West Coast Main Line has been cancelled following the discovery of significant technical flaws in the way the franchise process was conducted.
The decision is set to cost the taxpayer £40m as the Government reopens the West Coast franchise bidding process. The decision to take the franchise from current operator Virgin Trains had been hugely controversial, with Sir Richard Branson’s company launching a High Court challenge against the move.
Today the DfT said it would be no longer contesting the judicial review.
Mr McLoughlin has also ordered two independent reviews into the competition process. An announcement is expected to be made later today about the suspension of government staff.