Laidlaw struggles to pin blame over failed West Coast contest

Marion Dakers
A POOR chain of command helped cause the West Coast rail franchise fiasco, the author of a report into the failed contest told MPs yesterday – but confidentiality rules mean some officials involved have not been identified.

Sam Laidlaw, a non-executive director at the Department for Transport (DfT), said the department redacted parts of his report “to protect the commercial confidentiality of the bidders, but also one or two redactions to remove the identity of certain individuals”.

One of the names removed was the official who told the panel deciding on the winning bid that they could use discretion to alter the level of collateral that firms should offer, in breach of the rules. There were no full minutes from this meeting, Laidlaw told the transport select committee.

But he did not blame ministers: “They were asking the wrong people because the people at the senior level were not fully briefed.” He claimed that non-executives such as himself were a “natural place” for the investigation, as they had previously raised concerns about the franchising process. Labour MPs had urged the DfT to appoint more independent figures.