The essence of any public procurement process is simple: it must be fair. That means stating clearly the criteria by which bids will be evaluated and applying those criteria rigidly .
It sounds simplistic but it looks like what the Department for Transport has done in this case is not weight its assessment of the risks involved in the way it should have done, with the result being an unfair advantage to First Group.
The fact that the Department is to re-run the whole competition rather than simply re-evaluating the two final bids (Virgin and First Group) suggests that the whole evaluation process was fundamentally compromised in a way that could not be readily put right.
The mess that is emerging over the bidding process for the West Coast Main Line will be costly and raise the question of re-nationalisation.
The decision to award FirstGroup the West Coast Main Line rail franchise has been cancelled, the Department for Transport said.