Q&A: West Coast Main Line franchise

image captionVirgin Rail has always maintained that FirstGroup's bid did not stack up

The collapse of the West Coast Main Line bidding process - after the government found "significant flaws" - has left the Department for Transport facing questions from many quarters.

FirstGroup had been due to take over the running of the line from current operator Virgin Trains in December, but now the government must look at re-running the competition and keeping the line in operation for an interim period.

So how did the government manage to back-track on its decision, and what does it mean for upcoming rail franchises?

image caption1. Bids invited for West Coast Main Line rail franchise.
image caption2. Frontrunners, Virgin, FirstGroup, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch), and a joint bid from Keolis and SNCF (French) are invited to join bidding process.
image caption3. Key baseline conditions for the bid published. These turn out to be flawed.
image caption4. Franchise awarded to FirstGroup who promise “substantial improvements” to the service.
image caption5. Virgin Trains starts legal challenge over the decision, saying that civil servants “got their maths wrong “ .
image caption6. Government finds “severe technical flaws” in the bidding process. It is to be run again and the companies involved are to be compensated by at least £40m.
image caption7. Transport secretary to ask Virgin if they will operate the line while a fresh bidding process takes place. FirstGroup had been due to take over by 9 December.
image caption8. It could be several years before the long term future of the line is settled, after new contracts are handed out, following the completion of a fresh bidding process.

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