The following email from Managing Director David Horne was sent to all Virgin Trains East Coast staff.

Hello team, 

As you know we've been in discussions with the DfT for some months now and they're going well. 

I updated you recently about the Secretary of State's (SoS) announcement on 5 February 2018 around the future of the franchise, and in this statement he also commended the great job we've done to keep our customers happy. 

In his statement the SoS also confirmed he is considering two options to ensure service continues until the East Coast Partnership in 2020; a direct award with Stagecoach / Virgin, or an alternative to be directly operated by the DfT through the Operator of Last Resort (OLR). 

To prepare for the unlikely event that an OLR is required, advisors from Arup, SNC-Lavalin and Ernst & Young have been appointed to provide advice to the DfT to ensure that rail services can operate seamlessly if a franchise agreement is not in place for any reason. 

To reassure, Stagecoach Group and Virgin Group as shareholders have made it clear that commitments to customers, colleagues and the Government will be honoured. 

So what do I need to do? 

Nothing, it is business as usual. However, members of the OLR team may make site visits to stations and depots in the coming weeks; if they speak to you or ask a question, please give them your full cooperation. For those of you who have worked in the rail industry for some time, you'll know this is entirely normal and this process has taken place in other TOCs. It is nothing to be worried about. 

We are fully committed to the east coast route. If you haven't done so already you can listen to Stagecoach Group Chief Executive, Martin Griffiths, talk about the real story of our franchise in this video.  More recently, Martin and I were able to put our story across at the Public Accounts Committee and clear up some of the inaccurate media reporting of late - you can watch the video on Parliament's website. I'm proud to say over £140m has been invested to transform the east coast line to date, and over £800m had been paid back to the government since we started this franchise. And of course, we've recently achieved a 92% NRPS score which is fantastic. 

We expect negotiations with the DfT about a direct award will conclude in the coming weeks. If you have any questions please speak with your manager or email [REDACTED]. 

Thank you, 

David Horne Managing Director