West Coast Mainline: Your views

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Media captionRail Minister Theresa Villiers said there will be significant benefits for passengers

The UK's largest rail operator, FirstGroup, is to take over the West Coast mainline between London and Scotland.

Virgin Trains lost its bid to continue running the franchise. The government has defended its decision to hand the contract to a new rail operator. Ministers say passengers will get a better deal.

Here, BBC News website readers have been reacting to the news.

Anthony Thomas, Telford

Passengers are guaranteed an enjoyable journey travelling on Virgin Trains with their efficient seat bookings, quiet zones, catering and fast journeys.

But FirstGroup are proposing a direct train between Telford and London which would significantly improve things for me as I often take this route.

I will be moving to London soon but direct trains would make it easier for me to return to Telford to see my family.

The journey time would be cut too, as now, I would get a train from Telford to Birmingham New Street, change platforms, and wait 20 to 30 minutes before I can continue my journey to London.

Also, on a Sunday a journey that would take two and a half hours could be three and a half hours.

Hopefully the plan to have a direct train from Telford to London will materialise as promised by 2016.

But I think it is too long a wait as four years is enough time for FirstGroup to change their minds about providing direct a service.

Jill Ebrey, Manchester

I have been really concerned about this since rumours emerged a few weeks ago that Virgin would lose the franchise.

Although I would have some criticisms about the fares, Virgin's service has generally been superb. Their team is very good and the thrice hourly service to London from Manchester has been fantastic.

Image caption 'Why change something that works well?'

When I have travelled, trains have generally been clean, well-managed and punctual.

For example, on a cold early January night Cross Country trains left me stranded at midnight at Birmingham New Street station after terminating a train there unexpectedly. I had no idea when another train would turn up for the onward journey.

I was on the platform when a Virgin train turned up and said they would take us to Manchester, even though they had no obligation to do so. I fell over with my cases in the rush to get on the train.

The staff on the Virgin train came onto the platform, picked me and my luggage up, installed me in a first class seat and offered me complimentary sandwiches and drinks. I was astonished by their service and the kindness of their staff.

Whilst I would ideally support a nationalised rail service, Richard Branson's Virgin West Coast service has to be a close second.

I think FirstGroup have probably overbid for the franchise and this means trouble for the West Coast Line. I think this is an absolute disgrace.

Peter Reynolds, Birmingham

Image caption 'Virgin has become complacent and the line needed this shake up'

This is good news for passengers. I travel from Birmingham to Glasgow and Birmingham to Edinburgh frequently and the West Coast Virgin service is appallingly bad.

On Friday afternoon the trains are so packed that I have had to stand in the baggage car for the entire journey. That is four hours standing because there are no seats available. Trying to reserve a seat is futile because the reservation system has not worked on the train.

Complaining was useless, nothing ever happened, I never got an apology or any sort of explanation.

When the Edinburgh Festival is on then the train is even more crowded.

On many times from Edinburgh to Birmingham, trains get cancelled at short notice or have broken down.

Virgin has become complacent and the line needed this shake up to put passengers ahead of profits.

Nicholas Lawley, Leigh

As a fairly regular user of the West Coast Mainline, I am very disappointed at the government's decision to award the franchise to FirstGroup.

Virgin has built up this route to become one of the best networks in the country. Over the last 15 years they have invested billions in the line, introducing state-of-the art trains, reducing journey times, increasing frequencies, and making the line into the popular route it is today.

They even made the route competitive against airlines. I have never found problems with using the service. When something does go awry, they sort it.

Compare this to FirstGroup, who have had franchises revoked.

With the new franchise some things will have to go, as that's what the CEO does. They have an extremely bad reputation amongst their users, both on buses and trains.

The government have been extremely short-sighted with this franchise award. They are asking for things to go wrong. It is another East Coast Mainline fiasco waiting to happen.

More of your comments

A great day for the customer, Virgin delivered a terrible service for many years. I have commuted since 1995 and journey times have got longer, service standards have dropped and all Virgin do is whine. After 15 years it is a relief that we will see a west coast rail service as a "Virgin Free Zone". Andrew, Nuneaton

As a frequent service user, I cannot believe what I am reading. Aggressive bidding by FirstGroup, naivety on the part of the Department for Transport with a hard line stance from the RMT is going to without doubt cause fare increases and/or service disruption. Fare prices are already rising at a ridiculous rate and make no mistake, this is an attempt to boost government coffers which will indirectly be paid for by us. Iain Young, Glasgow

This is brilliant news! The service offered by Virgin, especially with regards to Gloucester City, has been nothing short of woeful on the West Coast Mainline for many years. I cannot wait for FirstGroup to offer the sort of service that we have enjoyed on the Gloucester to Paddington journey. Shame on you Virgin and good riddance! Kevin, Gloucester

I travel to both Glasgow and the South West frequently with work and there is no comparison between the West Coast line operated by Virgin and the Western services operated by the FirstGroup. The improvements to the West Coast line under Virgin has been spectacular. All the investment is now bearing fruit. This decision not to renew the franchise is a potential disaster, not only doubts about FirstGroup's ability to operate the line effectively but also it will put off other operators from investing in the way that Virgin has done in the future. Sam Crossley, Godalming

I'm from Barrow-in-Furness and my husband is from Stockport, so we frequently travel to the north from London, where we now live. The trains are often delayed, and there are never any seats available so even though I am registered disabled I have to stand or sit in a cramped vestibule, in pain. Virgin trains are overcrowded and overpriced for the service we have received, so I only hope that FirstGroup can deliver a better service without inflating the already overpriced train journey I have to take to see my family. Danielle Lahan, London

I am upset that Virgin have lost their bid. I use the West Coast main line to get to Glasgow about once a month, and always try and use Virgin for as much of the journey as I can. This is going to have significant impact on Virgin Rail, and can only hope the end result for them is not too devastating. Amanda Leishman, Basingstoke

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