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  1. ITV Report

Background to West Coast 'fiasco'

FirstGroup had been due to take over the London to Scotland West Coast route on December 9th Photo: PA Images

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin will update MPs later today on the West Coast rail franchise fiasco.

Due to what he described as "unacceptable mistakes" by Department for Transport (DfT) officials, Mr McLoughlin was forced to scrap the West Coast franchise bidding process.

In August, the DfT announced that transport giant FirstGroup, rather than Sir Richard Branson's rail company Virgin Trains, had won the battle to operate a new 13-year West Coast franchise.

Sir Richard, whose company had run West Coast since 1997, dubbed the bidding process "insane" and launched a legal challenge to the decision.

Former transport secretary Justine Greening, who presided over the original FirstGroup decision, and her successor, Mr McLoughlin, both defended the bidding process.

But it was while preparing to defend the Branson court challenge that mistakes in managing the West Coast bidding process were found.

Mr McLoughlin scrapped the bidding and suspended bidding on other franchises. In addition, three DfT civil servants were suspended.

Mr McLoughlin also announced that two independent inquiries would be carried out - the first to look specifically at the West Coast bidding process and the other to investigate franchise bidding generally.

FirstGroup had been due to take over the London to Scotland West Coast route on December 9. Virgin has been asked to carry on for the time being, with a two-year interim franchise to be offered later followed by a longer, permanent franchise.

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