The train operator serving West Midland commuters looks set to be granted a stay of execution - because civil servants have been unable to get through their paperwork in time.
Conservative shadow Transport Minister John Hayes is to write to the Department for Transport seeking clarification over the future of the Central Trains franchise, which was to be split up next March but now appears to have been given a further 18-month extension.
Last night, the DfT stressed that no decision had been made about the franchise ? despite there being just seven months left before it expires.
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling announced the break-up last October with different routes being hived off to other operators.
However, a report by passenger transport executive Centro states that DfT officials have advised it will seek to ?roll forward? the current franchise until a bidding process can be set up.
It adds: ?It is likely that a new contract based on the current franchise will be in operation from April 1 2006 to September 2007.?
Sources from a number of the train operators involved say the DfT have still yet to make contact over the franchise split or the extension.
Mr Hayes MP told The Birmingham Post: ?It seems this is yet another disgraceful example of Government incompetence, which has left rail operators and rail users in the dark about the future.
?It is simply not acceptable for the DfT to say they haven?t got round to sorting it out.?
Mr Hayes confirmed he would write to the DfT to demand an explanation about why there has not been time for a competitive refranchising process.
A spokesman for Centro said passengers would be more concerned about the terms of the new franchise rather than the length of time it takes to be implemented.
?The most important thing is what is actually specified in the franchise and also that we see a Birmingham- based operation taking over. We don?t want to be some outpost of a London-based franchise.
?Equally we would rather it takes that bit longer if it means the right deal for passengers is reached.?