Billionaire Richard Branson has wrestled back control of the West Coast Main Line in what one union leader called an "unprecedented fiasco."
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin told MPs today that Mr Branson's (pictured) Virgin Trains operation is set to continue running the route until November 2014.
Mr McLoughlin said he was "determined" to see Virgin's services improve - but the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said the billionaire had simply "muscled his way" into a monopoly.
The government sought to end Virgin's 14-year run in August, announcing a new contract with rival FirstGroup.
But an incandescent Mr Branson alleged the procurement panel had "got their maths wrong," with Virgin immediately filing a legal challenge against the Department for Transport (DfT).
Within days the government said it would retender the contract, blaming "serious mistakes" on Whitehall officials.
One suspended official Kate Mingay has mounted her own legal challenge over the allegations, while an investigation by DfT board member and Centrica boss Sam Laidlaw was pending as the Morning Star went to press.
RMT had called for Virgin to stay on during the dust-up, citing the need to protect members' job security.
But the union's general secretary Bob Crow was far from mollified, saying the only obstacle to renationalisation was the government's own "sub-Thatcherite" ideology.
"Anyone who thought the unprecedented fiasco on the West Coast Main Line franchise was over needs to think again.
"Because of the shocking ineptitude right at the top of this rotten government Richard Branson has muscled his way into a monopoly provider position on this main line route and has extracted a longer extension than expected leaving it wide open to legal challenge.
"Millions of pounds that could have been invested in services or used to keep fares down has been blown on the West Coast shambles and many millions more will be wasted as further pointless franchising exercises are carried out as the government learns nothing from this debacle," he said.
The latest twist follows a GfK NOP poll in September finding more than two-thirds of the public want to renationalise Britain's railways.
The poll of 1,000 people commissioned by train drivers' union Aslef found 70 per cent specifically agreed that "UK rail should be returned to public ownership."
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