Virgin Trains Limited (VTL) has commenced Court proceedings in respect of the decision to award the West Coast Main Line franchise to FirstGroup. We have tried for three weeks to get clarity over the Department for Transport’s decision and to have a number of key questions answered. On each occasion we have been refused information.
We are left with no choice but to commence Court proceedings as we believe the procurement process has ignored the substantial risks to taxpayers and customers of delivering FirstGroup’s bid over the course of the franchise.”
In addition it has ignored the DfT’s own assessment that VTL’s bid was more deliverable and a lower risk. We question whether FirstGroup’s bid has been correctly risk adjusted by the Department given all of its supposed incremental value is delivered after 2022.
The current process is geared to selecting the highest risk bid and needs to be independently audited to prevent a repeat of former franchise failures.”
Sir Richard Branson, Founder Virgin Group, said: “We had hoped that Parliament or an external review would be able to scrutinise this badly flawed process before the franchise was signed.
However that opportunity would be denied if the DfT follows through with its determination to rush through the process before Parliament returns next week.
“That ignores the wishes of more than 150,000 people who signed the Downing St e-petition in 10 days, the Labour Opposition, two important Commons committees and many backbench Conservative MPs who wanted a debate before the decision is taken, not a post-mortem afterwards.
“We have not taken this decision lightly, but it is the only course now available to try to unravel this sorry process.”