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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 October 2005, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Rail shake-up hits Virgin Trains
Sir Richard Branson and Virgin franchise map
Sir Richard may soon have to redraw Virgin Rail's franchise map
Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Rail could lose one of its franchises following a shake-up of the UK rail network.

Under government plans three franchises - Virgin's Cross Country service, Central Trains and - will end in 2007. Midland Mainline's will end in 2008.

The services, which cover the East and West Midlands, will be replaced by three new franchises.

The Department of Transport did say Virgin would be able to re-bid for any of the new franchise tenders.

All change

Under the plans the new Cross Country network will incorporate Central Trains' current services which cover Nottingham to Cardiff routes, Nottingham to Hereford and Birmingham-Stansted Airport.

The East Midlands network will cover local services in the area and intercity trains between London's St Pancras station and the East Midlands.

In turn, the West Midlands franchise will offer local services and trains from London Euston, a service currently offered by Silverlink.

Virgin - which also runs the West Coast Main Line - has operated the Cross Country network since 1997.

But, the contract - which was originally due to end in 2012 - has recently been run under a temporary arrangement with the government.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport said the changes were in line with government proposals to cut rail franchises in an effort to "improve efficiency and performance of the railways for passengers".

The government said it was still working on the details of the new franchises, and but said there was time for "full competitive tendering" before they started.

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