delighted to tell you that FirstGroup has been chosen by the Government to
operate the InterCity West Coast rail franchise. FirstGroup is the
largest rail operator in the UK and has vast experience of operating a range of
We will begin
operating services on 9 December and will run the franchise until 31 March
2026. The longer franchise period means we can invest £350m over the first five
years in enhancing the service offered to customers, to realise the huge
potential of the West Coast route - including 66 additional brand new vehicles,
on top of the 106 extra vehicles currently being delivered this year.
Our plans for
the service reflect its status as the UK's premier railway and through
investment and innovation we are committed to delivering high quality customer
services, with visible employees to assist and reassure, and maintaining and
enhancing on-train catering.
We also want to
offer value for money, and we will cut Standard Anytime fares by 15% on
average. We will introduce an improved compensation scheme for passengers
who experience disruption to their journey from day one.
By 2016 we will
deliver the following enhancements:
the on-board environment with a major refurbishment of Pendolino and
Voyager interiors with new seats throughout and improved luggage space
11 new 125mph six-car electric trains for Birmingham – Scotland services
which will create 12,000 additional seats per day. This is on top of
the 28,000 new seats that will be provided by the additional 106 Pendolino
carriages that are coming into service in time for the start of the new
franchise. This means there will be 40,000 extra seats by 2016,
compared with 2011
journey time of 15 minutes for trains between London and Glasgow
new direct services from London to Blackpool, Telford, Shrewsbury and
Bolton providing a new direct link to the capital for more than 500,000
frequency of London to Preston services, and more capacity to Chester and
connectivity with more stops at Nuneaton and Milton Keynes
and punctuality improvements to improve Public Performance Measure (PPM)
to over 90% (from current level of 85.9%) through targeted investment and
a new Alliance with Network Rail
Standard Anytime fares by 15% on average
of automatic ticket gates installation at 21 stations, including the major
terminals of London Euston, Manchester Piccadilly, Liverpool Lime St and
in greater yield management capability to help grow demand with increased
marketing and introduction of new customer loyalty programme
customer offering and innovation
ticketing introduced across the network
upgraded high speed Wi-Fi, and enhanced mobile phone coverage following
catering service offered, with increased at seat catering for customers
information systems including new customer mobile apps
investment includes improving accessibility, security and passenger
to high quality service including a greater emphasis on customer facing
staff on trains and at stations
We have also
committed to improve customer satisfaction ratings, and to provide clear and
comprehensive information about our performance on the franchise.
We understand the
importance of the West Coast Main Line route, not only to the communities it
serves, but because it links many of the major cities in the UK, supporting the
economic development of the nation. With the major infrastructure upgrade
on the West Coast Main Line completed, and additional train capacity being
provided this year, we believe there is huge potential to grow demand and
improve service on this franchise. Our plans will encourage more people along
the route to travel by rail rather than drive or fly, reducing environmental
The franchise will
form a key part of our Rail division, headed by our MD UK Rail, Rail Vernon
Barker OBE, who successfully led First TransPennine Express for many years.
As we prepare to launch our service at the end of the year, we will seek
further opportunities to share our plans with you in more detail. If you have
any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact Richard Parry,
our designate Managing Director for the new franchise.
We are privileged to
be given the opportunity to serve the customers, cities, businesses and
communities on this premier route, and look forward to working with you.
Following the DFT's decision to award the West Coast Mainline franchise
to FirstGroup, Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, said:
“The Government decision to award the West Coast Main Line Franchise to
FirstGroup is extremely disappointing for Virgin, and for our staff that
have worked so hard to transform this railway over the last 15 years.
We submitted a strong and deliverable bid based on improving customers’
experience, increased investment and sustained innovation. To have bid
more would have involved dramatic cuts to customer quality and
considerable fare rises which we were unwilling to entertain.
“We also did not want to risk letting everybody down with almost certain
bankruptcy at some time during the franchise as happened to GNER and
National Express who overbid on the East Coast mainline. Sadly the
Government has chosen to take that risk with First Group and we only
hope they will continue to drive dramatic improvements on this line for
years to come without letting everybody down.
“We won the franchise in 1997 with an agenda to change radically the way
people viewed and used the train. At the time the track was run-down,
staff demoralised, the service riddled with delays and reliant on heavy
subsidies. We set hugely challenging targets to dramatically speed up
journey times with modern tilting trains, increase the frequency of the
service, improve the on-board experience; as well as double passenger
numbers and return the line to profit.
“We were told it was "Mission Impossible" and our plans were laughed at
by critics. However 15 years later, despite continued problems with the
track, we have achieved our targets. Passenger numbers have more than
doubled to over 30 million, the fastest growth in the UK and world
leading. We have the highest customer satisfaction of any long distance
franchise operator and dominate the air/rail market between London and
Manchester. It has been a remarkable achievement by an outstanding team
who have successfully delivered on our promises.
“I am immensely proud of our staff for turning the West Coast line from a
heavily loss-making operation into one that will return the taxpayer
billions in the years to come. Last year we paid a net premium of £160
million to the taxpayer and have created a franchise worth more than £6
billion which is hugely valuable to the country.
“These achievements have counted for little – as this is the fourth time
that we have been out-bid in a rail tender. On the past three
occasions, the winning operator has come nowhere close to delivering
their promised plans and revenue, and has let the public and country
down dramatically. In the case of the East Coast Main line, both winners
– GNER and National Express - over promised in order to win the
franchise and spectacularly ran into financial difficulties in trying to
deliver their plans. The East Coast is still in Government ownership
and its service is outdated and underinvested, costing passengers and
the country dearly as a result.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting
different results. When will the Department for Transport learn?
Interestingly before Virgin took over the West Coast there were more
passengers using the East Coast than the West Coast. Now there are 12
“Under our stewardship, the West Coast Mainline has been transformed
from a public liability into a valuable asset for the UK, worth many
billions of pounds. The service is a British success story and one to
put up against rail companies around the world. It is a great shame that
such a strong track record has been discounted in the evaluation
process for one of the UK’s most important infrastructure assets. The
country's passengers, taxpayers and the West Coast employees deserve
“Based on the current flawed system, it is extremely unlikely that we
would bid again for a franchise. The process is too costly and
uncertain, with our latest bid costing £14 million. We have made
realistic offers for the East Coast twice before which were rejected by
the Department for Transport for completely unrealistic ones and
therefore will have to think hard before embarking on another bid.
“Our amazing staff have been the driving force behind the West Coast
Main Line’s transformation and I am sure that for the last months of the
contract they will all continue to run the high quality service that
has helped win us many awards and attract millions more customers to
Rail passengers from London to Scotland will
benefit from a package of improvements including more trains and more seats, as
Rail Minister Theresa Villiers unveiled First West Coast Limited as the new
operator for the ‘InterCity West Coast’ franchise.
of the deal First West Coast Limited will introduce 11 new six-car electric
trains which will enable more seats to be provided across the franchise,
including greater capacity on the Birmingham to Scotland route. New services
are planned from Blackpool, Telford, Shrewsbury and Bolton to London. First
West Coast Limited has also committed to cut the cost of its ‘Standard Anytime’
fares by an average of 15% within the first two years.
franchise stretches from London to Glasgow, connecting many of the UK’s major
cities including Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Edinburgh,
Lancaster and Chester. The franchise deal is worth £5.5 billion (net present
value) over the lifetime of the contract.
Minister Theresa Villiers said:
franchise will deliver big improvements for passengers, with more seats and
plans for more services. Targets to meet on passenger satisfaction will be
introduced for the first time in an InterCity rail franchise and passengers
will also benefit from smart ticketing and from investment in stations.
Coast is the first of the new longer franchises to be let by the Coalition
which has helped us secure real benefits for passengers by encouraging First
West Coast Limited to invest in the future of the service.”
the new franchise will offer passengers include:
More Seats: The new 11 six-car
electric trains will deliver circa 12,000 extra seats a day, from December
2016 with the cascade of existing rolling stock to bolster capacity on
West Coast routes. This is in addition to the 106 extra ‘Pendolino’
carriages which are currently being introduced into operation on to the
franchise, which will deliver over 28,000 extra daily seats.
More Services: Initially First West Coast
Limited will operate the timetable they will inherit from the current
franchise but are seeking to introduce a number of new services including
a London Euston to Blackpool service from 2013 and from 2016 services from
London to Telford Central, Shrewsbury and Bolton.
Improved Services: Journey time improvements
between London and Glasgow are planned, as well as additional services
from London to Preston.
Fares: First West Coast Limited
is changing its Standard Anytime fares and reducing them by an average of
15% over the first two years of the franchise.
Improved Stations: First West Coast Limited
is taking over responsibility for maintenance at 17 of their stations and
will spend at least £22m on a station investment programme.
Smart ticketing technology:
First West Coast Limited will introduce ITSO based smart ticketing. This
will offer speed and convenience as well as new ticket types more tailored
to individual needs.
Notes to editors
Bids were received from;
Abellio InterCity West
Coast Limited – NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen),
First West Coast Limited –
Keolis / SNCF West Coast
Limited – Keolis SA and SNCF,
Virgin Trains Limited –
Virgin Group Holdings Limited.
Virgin Trains has operated
the franchise since 1997 and the existing contract expires on 9 December
2012. The new franchise will begin operation on Sunday 9 December 2012.
The franchise will operate for a core term of 13 years and 4 months, with
an option to be extended to operate for up to 15 years.
The proposed Train Service
Specification for new Inter City West Coast represents a relaxation from
the rigid timetable specification of the past, while retaining obligations
that protect the key elements of service, such as principal first and last
trains and minimum numbers of station stops per week and per day. This
marks a significant shift from the highly detailed specification which
featured in previous franchise specifications.
To support its bid, First
West Coast Limited has provided £10m of Shareholder Capital, a £45m
Performance bond agreement and a subordinated loan of £190m. This is in
addition to the requirement to provide a Season Ticket bond of circa £5m
and a £15m Parent Company Guarantee to ensure the new Station Facilities
maintenance obligations are met.
This longer franchise length
encouraged investment in assets such as stations by extending the period
over which commercially attractive schemes can pay back.
Anytime fares allow the use
of any train, including at weekday peak times. Anytime tickets are not the
only ones available to walk-on passengers. Off-peak fares are also
available on the day and – as their name implies – are generally valid on
all but peak services.
The new services are subject
to obtaining the necessary permissions and access rights from the Office
of Rail Regulation.
ITSO is a government-backed
common technical standard for smart travel which means that transport
operators throughout Britain can link up so passengers only have to use
one secure payment ‘smart’ card no matter what bus, train or route they