Minister says civil service rail mistakes were not deliberate

Marion Dakers
CIVIL servants did not intentionally deceive ministers during the botched West Coast Main Line rail franchise contest, the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said yesterday.

“No I don’t think ministers were deliberately misled but… some of it was not the proper workmanship that one would expect from the civil service,” he told the transport select committee.

He said the “serious errors” made during the competition, which led to the collapse of the process in October, “will form part of civil service training for many years to come”.

McLoughlin will this week publish the Brown report that examines the way the government runs rail franchise competitions. The investigation by Eurostar chairman Richard Brown was commissioned after the West Coast contract for FirstGroup was scrapped, at a cost of at least £40m to the taxpayer, when a string of mistakes were found in the sums used to judge the bids.

McLoughlin will also reveal the fate of three other rail franchises whose contests have been paused in the wake of the West Coast fiasco, which led to the suspension of three civil servants.

The trio have now returned to work, the Department for Transport’s top civil servant Philip Rutnam said yesterday.

However, disciplinary proceedings have started against an undisclosed number of department staff, he added.

“This is a confidential staff matter and those processes are still ongoing,” the permanent secretary told the committee when asked whether the three civil servants were involved in disciplinary action.