MP joins call for rail delay

Dumfries and Galloway MP and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the West Coast Mainline Russell Brown has called for the government to consider delaying the contract that will see First Group replace Virgin on the route.

The line provides a vital link for Dumfries and Galloway and is the busiest rail line in the UK. It has been operated by Virgin Trains since 1997, but it was announced earlier this month that First Group had won the new franchise.

The deal will see First Group take over in December and operate the franchise for 13 years.

However, questions have been raised about the new contract, including whether the amount of money First Group has promised to pay to the government is achievable.

Mr Brown said: “I have a number of concerns about the new contract and there are serious questions about its sustainability. It is becoming increasingly clear that the government took this decision with little regard for the impact it would have on passengers. We need to make sure taxpayers get the best all round deal and we cannot have a repeat of the East Coast Mainline shambles, where the operator walked away mid because they had made over ambitious promises.

“I am particularly worried about possible fare hikes as a result of this contract. Thecurrent government has allowed fares to rocket and this contract could allow fare rises of 11% every year, which will hit people at a time many families are already struggling with the rising cost of living.

“This is a 13-year franchise, so it is important the government gets it right. Given all the uncertainty, I am urging the government to consider delaying the signing until MPs have been able to discuss it in parliament and, hopefully, the Transport Select Committee being given the chance to consider the matter. For the government to ignore the many concerns and press ahead with the new franchise regardless would be a slap in the face for passengers.”