DfT rail deal official hits back

A senior Department of Transport official suspended over the mishandling of the West Coast Main Line rail franchise contract as hit out at her own department for "inaccurately portraying" her role and overstating her responsibility.

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Virgin Trains 'welcome' DfT's rail franchise decision

We welcome today's frank announcement by the Secretary of State, acknowledging the flaws in the way the InterCity West Coast competition was assessed and launching a review into franchising more widely.

We are ready to play a full part in assisting the review to help deliver a franchising system that better serves passengers, taxpayers and the interests of all bidders.

In the meantime, we will assist the Department for Transport in ensuring continuity of service for the millions of customers who depend on train services on the West Coast mainline.

– Virgin Trains statement

Labour: Rail decision shows 'shambolic incompetence' of Government

The West Coast rail franchise fiasco has yet again exposed the shambolic incompetence of this Tory-led government.

Ministers have spent weeks refusing to listen to Labour's call to suspend the award of this contract to enable an independent review to take place.

Only last week the Transport Secretary repeated his claim that the process was conducted properly and he would hand over the franchise to First on time, despite all the concerns that had been raised.

The Government's belated admission that it ran a flawed tendering process will come as a surprise to no-one.

– Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle


Sir Richard Branson 'pleased' with DfT's decision

I am pleased to say that the DfT has looked at all of the facts and found significant flaws in the way it's officials handled the process. They have basically acknowledged that what we had been saying is correct. The same procedures were not followed and "deeply regrettable and completely unacceptable mistakes" were made by the Department.

At the House of Commons Select Committee we called for all franchise competitions to be paused and a thorough, independent review of the process. We are grateful that Patrick McLoughlin is now doing this.

We also appreciate the DfT publicly acknowledging these errors, and are hopeful they will now accept that Virgin Trains should carry on running the West Coast Main Line and ensure that passengers continue receiving our team's award-winning service.

– Sir Richard Branson

FirstGroup 'extremely disappointed' by rail decision

Until this point we had absolutely no indication that there were any issues with the franchise letting process and had received assurances from the DfT that its processes were robust and that it expected to sign the contract with FirstGroup soon.

We are extremely disappointed to learn this news and await the outcome of the DfT's inquiries.

The DfT has made it clear to us that we are in no way at fault, having followed the due process correctly.

We submitted a strong bid, in good faith and in strict accordance with the DfT's terms.

– FirstGroup statment

What cancelling the West Coast competition means

  • FirstGroup, who were due to take over the running of the West Coast Main Line in December, will no longer be awarded the franchise.
  • The Department for Transport will no longer contest the judicial review sought by Sir Richard Branson's company Virgin Rail - who currently run the service.
  • Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has ordered two independent reviews into the competition process.
  • An announcement is expected later today about the suspension of government staff while investigations are conducted.
  • The Government has paused all other outstanding franchise competitions.
  • Officials have now been asked to examine the options for the operation of the service after December 9.


Transport Secretary cancelled decision after 'unacceptable mistakes'

I have had to cancel the competition for the running of the West Coast franchise because of deeply regrettable and completely unacceptable mistakes made by my department in the way it managed the process.

A detailed examination by my officials into what happened has revealed these flaws and means it is no longer possible to award a new franchise on the basis of the competition that was held.

I have ordered two independent reviews to look urgently and thoroughly into the matter so that we know what exactly happened and how we can make sure our rail franchise programme is fit for purpose.

– Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin
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