The Department for Transport has tonight announced that the competition to run trains on the West Coast Main Line has been cancelled. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced that there has been a discovery of significant technical flaws in the way the franchise process was conducted.
Virgin Trains had held the contract, which operates from Holyhead in north Wales to Euston, for the past 15 years. Virgin Trains rival FirstGroup had been awarded the contract and remained confident that they would take over the running of the service in December.
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.