Rail campaigner’s hopes for London link

Paul Nettleton (below) says Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Trains should be stripped of the West Coast Main Line service.
Paul Nettleton (below) says Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Trains should be stripped of the West Coast Main Line service.
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A RAIL campaigner says Virgin Trains should not be allowed to appeal against a decision which stripped them of the rights to their West Coast Main Line service.

Sir Richard Branson says his company is ready to run the trains for free to allow Parliament time to scrutinise the decision to hand the running of the trains to rivals FirstGroup.

Paul Nettleton

Paul Nettleton

But Paul Nettleton, chairman of Fylde Coast Rail Users, says Virgin should just accept the decision.

Mr Nettleton has called for Virgin Trains to back down in the hope another train provider will provide a Blackpool to London route.

He told The Gazette: “This makes Mr Branson look a bit desperate.

“Anyone wanting to run a railway for free must be, because running one at the best of times is a hell of a job.

“The people I’ve spoken to are very much against Virgin getting another chance and at a committee meeting last week we were in agreement they had not done a lot for Blackpool.

“FirstGroup has already said it will re-introduce services to London, which would only help Blackpool.”

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Mr Branson’s plea comes after Louise Ellman, the chairman of the House of Commons Transport Committee, wrote to transport secretary Justine Greening asking her to hold off signing the £10bn contract.

And more than 100,000 members of the public have signed an online petition against the decision, in a campaign supported by double Olympic champion Mo Farah.

In a letter to the Department for Transport, shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle slammed the decision to hand the line to FirstGroup.

She wrote: “It appears almost exclusively a ‘bottom line’ decision, driven by a particularly high pledge of payments to Government.”

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