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West Coast

What is happening now?

Following the suspension of the franchise process in 2012 Virgin Trains was granted an extension to operate the franchise until November 2014 (known as a direct award). A further direct award was negotiated with the Department for Transport (DfT) in June 2014 that allowed Virgin to continue to run services until September 2017 when a new franchise was due to start. In November 2015 the DfT decided to re-time the franchise to align better with the HS2 programme. Virgin Trains will therefore continue running services on the West Coast until April 2018.

On 10 May DfT launched a consultation into the future of InterCity West Coast services. The consultation seeks the views of passengers and stakeholders and the results will be used to inform the specification of the new franchise. The 12 week consultation closes on 2 August 2016.


A previous competition to operate this franchise was cancelled in October 2012 following a legal challenge from Virgin and identification of flaws in the process.

The timetable for the award of the next franchise will start when the OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) Notice is published in June 2016. This will be followed by consultation, invitations to prospective bidders to complete a pre-qualification questionnaire, leading to a list of shortlisted bidders, before the ITT (Invitation to Tender) is issued in November 2016. The new franchise will be awarded in November 2017, to start in April 2018.

Our role in the franchising process

We met with the DfT to determine our input to the next franchise replacement process and we continue to hold detailed discussions with the DfT to identify key issues. In Autumn 2015 we carried out research to explore passengers’ current experiences and aspirations for the future. This research will inform our discussions with DfT and our further input to this franchise. An overview of the findings is available here.

We made representations to the DfT about the passenger benefits we wanted to see delivered by the most recent Direct Award. These included establishing NRPS targets for the franchise which are now in place.

We had previously conducted research and assessed the available NRPS data to provide evidence of what passengers wanted from the franchise which we fed into the subsequently cancelled competition.

To view our National Rail Passenger Survey reports or to access these and our appeal complaints data through our Data Explorer tool, please click on the links below:

NRPS                                                                  Data Explorer

Transport Focus reports and publications

February 2016 West Coast passenger research – an overview
February 2016 West Coast passenger research – agency report
January 2012 Priorities for the West Coast main line research
October 2011 Summary of Passenger Focus research and recommendations to government
May 2011 Intercity West Coast passenger priorities questionnaire
May 2011 Intercity West Coast research – excel data
May 2011 Intercity West Coast franchise research – stated preference
May 2011 Passenger Focus initial submission to the DfT
April 2011 Appendices from initial submission

Department for Transport reports and publications

June 2014 Rail Franchising: Intercity West Coast – Written statement to Parliament
December 2012 Report of the Laidlaw inquiry
October 2012 The Laidlaw Inquiry into the InterCity West Coast Franchise: interim report
 October 2012 West Coast Main Line franchise competition cancelled

Click here for other key Department for Transport publications

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