Interim report finds issues with rail bid

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Patrick McLoughlin

An interim investigation has found that the fight to be awarded the West Coast rail line which links Liverpool and London was flawed with “technical difficulties”.

The rail line, which serves 31 million passengers a year travelling between London, the West Midlands, the north-west of England, north Wales and the central belt of Scotland, was awarded to FirstGroup ahead of Virgin Trains but the government scrapped the decision on October 2nd.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that the Government would not make any further comment on the inquiry until the final report is published as they didn’t want to “prejudge”.

Mr McLoughlin admitted that the inquiry “has identified a number of issues” that proved he was right in his decision to cancel the franchise competition for the multi-billion pound line.

He told the House of Commons that there were inconsistencies in how the rail companies were treated. He told the house there was a “lack of transparency in the bidding process” and that publishing the guidance was complied with.

The Transport Secretary added that the system used for bidders to pledge money to their proposal was flawed. He said the inquiry provided “confirmation of technical flaw in the model used to calculate the amount of risk capital bidders were asked to provide to guard against the risk of default”.

The inquiry follows the Department of Transportation’s decision to award the west coast line to FirstGroup after 13 years with Virgin. Richard Branson branded the decision to award it to FirstGroup as “insane”.

About Cillian McGinn, JMU Journalism