Remember my blog entry about the UK Department of Transportation janking the West Coast Main Line franchise from Virgin Trains? Then handing it to the, in my opinion totally unqualified, First Group? It appears that the good folks in Britain are not taking kindly to being taken for a likely very costly ride by the UK Department of Transportation. I have said it before and I will say it again: railroads being run by non-railroaders has never worked and will never work!
Here is the latest dirt on this issue, from www.rail.co:
One-hundred-thousand people have now signed an e-petition which aims to pressurize the UK Government into a U-turn over its decision to strip Virgin Trains of the West Coast franchise.
Although the petition is now eligible for debate in the House of Commons, signing of the new contract with FirstGroup is due to take place on Tuesday.
However, Member of Parliament Louise Ellman, chairman of the Transport Select Committee, has urged the Transport Secretary not to finalize the contract until the committee has had a chance to scrutinize the bids.
Louise Ellman said: “The Government’s decision to award the West Coast rail franchise to First West Coast Ltd has raised a number of concerns. I want the Transport Committee to have the opportunity to explore these issues and will be consulting with my colleagues shortly.
“This franchise will affect millions of passengers and last for up to 15 years. A great deal of public and private money is at stake. I have no fixed view on the matter and no preference for any of the bidders. My wish is simply to bring greater transparency to the process. The growing public concern about the franchise, and lack of answers from the Department for Transport, means that a pause for reconsideration is essential to let Parliament examine this very important issue."
Sir Richard Branson said: “In less than a week one hundred thousand of you have said that you believe that Virgin Trains should continue to run the west coast mainline and have called for the House of Commons to debate the issue.
“The Transport Committee is absolutely right to ask for a delay. The growing public concern about the franchise, and lack of answers from the Department for Transport, means that a pause for reconsideration is essential to let Parliament examine this very important issue.”
More celebrities, including Stephen Fry, Dermot O’Leary and magician Derren Brown, have taken to Twitter to add their support to Virgin’s campaign.
Branson added: “All of us at Virgin Trains are overwhelmed and thank you. Let us hope that sense prevails and your views are acted on quickly. I’d also like to thank Ross McKillop who uses Virgin Trains and FirstGroup regularly for starting this petition."