Government cancels First Group West Coast Mainline contract

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THE decision to award First Group the West Coast Mainline contract was cancelled and an urgent investigation launched by the Government yesterday.

Patrick McLoughlin, Transport Secretary, said there had been “siginificant flaws” in the way the franchise process was conducted.

It means that Virgin will run trains temporarily through Rugby while the franchise is resolved, and that the Department for Transport (DfT) will no longer contest the judicial review sought by Virgin Trains Ltd in the High Court.

Mr McLoughlin has also ordered two independent reviews to be undertaken, the first into what went wrong with the West Coast competition and the lessons to be learned, the second into the wider DfT rail franchise programme, both overseen by leading business figures. Meanwhile all other pending contracts have been suspended.

Mr McLoughlin said: “I have had to cancel the competition for the running of the West Coast franchise because of deeply regrettable and completely unacceptable mistakes made by my department in the way it managed the process. West Coast passengers can rest assured that while we seek urgently to resolve the future arrangements the trains that run now will continue to run, with the same drivers, the same staff and timetables as planned.”