The Department for Transport have announced that Virgin Trains have received a six month contract extension.

The joint enterprise by Virgin and Stagecoach has received an extension that means their contract will now run until March 2020.

This is the latest extension to the deal on the InterCity West Coast franchise, which runs services via Milton Keynes Central on the busy rail route connecting London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.

The news is the latest extension to the contract since technical failures saw a previous decision in 2012 to award the franchise to First Group was annulled. It is also the second extension granted this year, after Virgin previously received an extension in March to run through to September 2019.

In a statement to ITV, the Department for Transport said the arrangement is part of preparation for the forthcoming West Coast Partnership, which is due to replace the InterCity West Coast franchise.

A spokesperson said, “This is not a new contract – it is a short extension period as allowed for in the current agreement.

“The extension will ensure a smooth transition into the West Coast Partnership, minimising disruption and delivering the best value for passengers and taxpayers.”

The West Coast Partnership franchise is intended to combine the operation of current West Coast Main Line services with those on the forthcoming High Speed 2 network, with aspiring franchise holders requiring a partnership with high speed rail operators as part of the brokered arrangement.