VIRGIN Rail has lost its West Coast main line franchise to rival transport company FirstGroup.
The route serves more than 31 million passengers travelling between North Wales, London, the West Midlands, the North West and Scotland.
FirstGroup has promised cheaper fares, more services and improved stations but fears have been raised passengers may see increases in fares.
Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association rail union, said: "This crazy franchise lottery, where the highest bidder scoops the pot, means that passengers will have to pay inflation-busting fare rises on the busiest line in the UK for the next 14 years.
"That is the only way that FirstGroup will be able to pay their annual £500 million premium to Chancellor George Osborne as well as rewarding their shareholders with profits."
FirstGroup will take over the West Coast line on December 9, with the franchise running for 13 years and four months.
The franchise deal was worth £5.5 billion over the lifetime of the contract.
Chief executive Tim O'Toole said the company was delighted to win the franchise. He said: " "We will be making significant improvements including reduced journey times and introducing new direct services.
"In support of our commitment to generate increased passenger growth we will be reducing standard anytime fares by 15 per cent on average."