A furore has erupted over the future operation of Britain's busiest long-distance rail line, the West Coast Line, according to today's Telegraph. The government is set to hand over control of the line to FirstGroup, an operator which is "widely criticised by passengers".
FirstGroup held back competition from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Rail Group for the contract, which generated an angry outburst from the world-renowned entrepreneur, who threatened to exit the rail industry entirely, calling the FirstGroup bid - a staggering £10bn - "insanity".
Virgin, which previously ran the West Coast Line, was the second highest bidder at £8.6bn for the 13-year franchise. It is estimated that the company has spent £60m campaigning for further rail contracts without any success.
In a surprise move, FirstGroup have, upon agreeing the franchise contract, registered the line with Companies House under a new name: Horizon Trains.
The news of the contract comes shortly after leisure and business travellers alike across the UK were disappointed to hear that fares were set to rise an average of 6.2% over the coming year. Additionally, Mr Branson argued that the size of FirstGroup's bid relied on cutting costs elsewhere, with a "drastic cut in service quality".