Waiting for a train? The West Coast fiasco's true cost

The Government has reopened the bidding process for the East Coast Main Line. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

The true cost of the fiasco over the West Coast Main Line franchise is only just beginning to become clear. Not just the more than £40 million that the mistakes cost, but the significant changes to the franchise system that decides who runs our railways.

The Government has not decided to throw out the whole system - indeed today they reopen the bidding process for the East Coast Main Line, which has been run by the public sector since National Express walked off the job in 2009, as they couldn't make the sums add up.

The unions say putting the line back into the private sector fails to learn the lessons of what went wrong before.

But many other franchises, including the West Coast line deal and Great Western, have been delayed to slow things down.

One of the main things the Department for Transport has concluded after the failures of the West Coast deal is that running too many complicated franchise processes is risky, and it is better to do fewer, slower and (hopefully) make fewer mistakes. It also delays some potentially controversial decisions until after the next election.

One experienced industry analyst told me "the whole thing is a mess".

P.S. Sir Richard Branson told us at the time of failed West Coast process that he would be interested in bidding for East Coast again if it were to come up. They had already bid several times and never been successful.