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.

Latest ITV News reports

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

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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.

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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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