The Guardian carries a story regarding the Government's decision to block proposals by Virgin Trains to purchase 100 extra carriages for its Pendolino service in order to meet expected customer demand for seats. The route which Virgin covers, the West Coast Mainline, is an essential route for business running all the way from Scotland, through Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham. It is a fantastically busy service, especially at peak times.
The Virgin Trains chief executive, Tony Collins, demanded an explanation from the DfT after it blocked a move to acquire 100 more Pendolino carriages for its west coast service. Virgin Trains had asked for a franchise extension, or a change in financial terms, in order to finance the £200m deal and accommodate passenger demand that is expected to rise from 20 million a year to 34 million by 2012.
The company will increase services by a third from December, adding 13m extra seats a year. However, it has warned that the extra capacity will be soaked up by 2011 and that it will need extra carriages to prevent overcrowding.
The Government's blocking of this application beggars belief. As the Guardian's article states, "in a recent rail white paper, transport secretary Ruth Kelly said the government strategy was to maximise use of the existing rail network." This decision is entirely counter to that strategy, leaving one to wonder how much credibility the Transport Secretary actually has left.
LondonUnlocked will continue to follow this story as it develops.