Taxpayers' £50m West Coast bill

Taxpayers will face a "significant" bill of around £50m over the West Coast rail franchise fiasco, the Government's spending watchdog has warned.

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Transport Sec 'taking swift action' over West Coast Main Line

The government's transport secretary has said that his department is taking "swift action" regarding the controversy surrounding the West Coast rail franchise.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

"The NAO has made a number of recommendations that mirror many of the findings of the Laidlaw Inquiry in terms of the work we need to do to strengthen our organisation and the structures within it.

"We are already taking swift action on this front and I believe the plans we are putting in place to ensure future franchise competitions are conducted on the basis of sound planning, the rigorous identification and oversight of risk, will prevent a repeat of these lamentable failures."

Labour MP: West Coast franchise is 'a fiasco'

Labour MP for Barking, Margaret Hodge Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The House of Commons Public Accounts chairman has called the government's handling of the West Coast franchise a "fiasco."

Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking, said: "The DfT's handling of the West Coast franchise was a first-class fiasco."

"It has left the Government's entire policy on rail franchising in disarray, as a further three competitions have had to be put on hold.

"The total cost to the taxpayer of putting it right is currently unknown but is likely to be significant."

Ms Hodge said the Dft had "blundered into this major and complex competition for one of the biggest franchises in the country without even knowing how key parts of its policy were to be implemented".


Taxpayers will face 'significant' bill over West Coast rail

A FirstGroup service passing a Virgin Pendolino train in Glasgow Central Station Credit: Martin Keene/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Taxpayers will face a "significant" bill over the West Coast rail franchise process, a report from a Government spending watchdog has said.

The Department for Transport's (DfT) running of the West Coast bidding process lacked management oversight, with some staff "confused" by the system, the National Audit Office (NAO) report said.

The Government has already indicated that repaying bidding costs to the companies competing for the franchise is likely to land taxpayers with a bill of around £40 million.

In its report, the NAO said staff and adviser costs, legal costs and money for the two reviews set up by the Government following abandonment of the West Coast bidding amounted to £8.9 million.

FirstGroup 'bid entirely in accordance with DfT's process'

As the report from Sam Laidlaw into the cancellation of the InterCity West Coast franchise competition confirms, we bid entirely in accordance with the Department for Transport's process throughout and the Secretary of State has repeatedly confirmed that FirstGroup is in no way at fault.

It is especially disappointing that passengers and taxpayers will not see the benefits that our successful bid would have delivered.

We maintain that the private sector provides the most effective and efficient way to deliver passenger rail services in the UK.

We now await the outcome of the independent review being carried out by Richard Brown and hope this will provide certainty and confidence in the future of rail franchising.

– First Group spokesman


Transport Secretary to appoint railway Director-General

Patrick McLoughlin will make made a statement to the House of Commons this morning.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin today announced the appointment of a Director-General with "responsibility for all rail policy and franchising."

"We will ensure that we have the right mix of professional skills inside the department and, where necessary, from professional external advisers," he added.

Mr McLoughlin made the announcement after confirming that Virgin Trains would continue to run the West Coast mainline until at least 2014.

Branson: Rail deal 'perfect early Christmas present'

Sir Richard Branson said he was "delighted" that Virgin Trains had secured the West Coast Main Line for a further 23-months. Credit: PA Wire

He said: "It has been a long journey to get to this point, but we won’t be resting on our laurels and intend to keep improving services for our loyal customers."

On Twitter he said the deal was "reward for hard work and bravery of the team".

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