“A detailed examination by my officials into what happened has revealed these flaws, and means it is no longer acceptable to award a new franchise on the basis of the competition that was held,” Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughin said.

A 15 month tendering process was carried out, at the end of which Virgin Trains were usurped by First Group, much to Virgin head Richard Branson’s annoyance. The entrepreneur was vocal in his opinions of the decision, to which he began a legal challenge in August.

First Group’s winning of the contract has now been cancelled, however, McLoughin has said that the mistakes lie squarely with the Department for Transport and not the train provider.

“West Coast passengers can rest assured that while we seek urgently to resolve the future arrangements the trains that run will now continue to run with the same drivers, the same staff and timetables as planned,” McLoughlin added.

Virgin Trains will continue to run the west coast main line, which serves passengers travelling between London, the north east of England and Scotland.

In time decisions will be made about how to proceed now that the tendering process has to be rerun, with Department for Transport staff suspensions announced in due course, too.

Photo: Getty.