West Coast Rail bidding process deemed flawed

LACK of transparency, inadequate information and inconsistent treatment of potential bidders by the Department for Transport (DfT) all contributed to a “flawed process” to determine which firm would run the West Coast main line franchise, an interim inquiry into the fiasco has concluded.

The debacle, which earlier this month resulted in the decision to award the multi-billion pound rail franchise to FirstGroup over Virgin being scrapped by the government at an estimated cost of $40m, was the result of “an accumulation of errors” by the DfT, according to Sam Laidlaw leading the independent inquiry.

Laidlaw, non-exec board member of the DfT as well as chief executive of energy firm Centrica, said the errors included inadequate planning and resourcing issues within the Dft as well as “weak governance”. Ultimately these errors meant the impact of inflation as well as some elements of the increase in passenger numbers over the period of the franchise were not taken into account.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who will appear before the House of Commons transport committee tomorrow to answer questions, said the report made “uncomfortable reading.”