(Reuters) – FirstGroup <FGP.L> will take over the British rail franchise that links London, Manchester and Glasgow in December, and is being lined up to run trains on the High Speed 2 line planned for some similar routes, the government said on Wednesday. The award of the West Coast Mainline contract to a joint venture 70% owned by First and 30% by Italy’s TrenItalia marks the end of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group involvement with Britain’s railways after more than 20 years. Virgin’s West Coast partner Stagecoach <SGC.L> was disqualified from bidding for the new contract after it did not comply with rules over pension funding. It has challenged the bar. FirstGroup Chief Executive Officer Matthew Gregory said the joint venture was committed to delivering a range of improvements on the West Coast mainline, which he said had been one of the most consistently successful franchises over the last 20 years. “The West Coast Partnership’s first phase allows us to earn returns on the significant investments in services and facilities for passengers but protected by a much improved revenue risk sharing mechanism,” he said. “This will transition to a management contract in the second phase, ensuring we can really focus on… Read full this story
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