A Shropshire train passengers’ group today claimed the railways would be better off renationalised following the fiasco surrounding the contract for the West Coast Main Line franchise.
Geoff Atkinson, president of Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton Rail Users Association, said the debacle had proved that the franchise system was ‘pretty useless’. And he said it was essential the system was changed to avoid millions of pounds being wasted in the future.
Shropshire’s promised direct rail link to London is also facing fresh delays after the Government scrapped its decision to award the West Coast Main Line service from London to Scotland to FirstGroup.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said there were ‘significant technical flaws’ in the bidding process because of mistakes by Department for Transport staff. Three civil servants have been suspended.
It is estimated the cost of reimbursing the four rail operators involved in the bidding process will be £40 million.
Mr Atkinson said: “You could look at this as a step back or a step forward in some ways. Many people are very unhappy with the way the franchise system is being run.
“I look forward to the process being re-run in a different way. It would be better to go back to British Rail. We need a more sustainable system.
He continued: “I think this will have an impact on passengers everywhere and could lead to a different way of running the railways.
“It cost £16 billion in legal fees to set up the franchise system and I can see more and more money being wasted, £40 million is a good start.
“Something very serious needs to be done to change how we run the railways.”
During the bidding process both FirstGroup and Virgin Trains promised to deliver a direct rail service from the capital to Shropshire.
Virgin said they would have run three services a day between the county and London – with trains travelling through Gobowen and Chirk on the way to Wrexham by the end of 2015.
County business leaders today called on Virgin Trains to make good on its promise to deliver a direct rail link in the county.
Mandy Thorn, chairman of the Shropshire Business Board said: “The direct rail link to London is crucial for business.
“Virgin said they planned to put the direct link in the bid but we now need them to put their money where their mouth is.”