Three officials involved in the West Coast franchise competition have been suspended by the permanent secretary following an admission from the government the West Coast rail franchise tender process would have to be rerun.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin earlier confirmed what had long been expected, with the competition to run trains on the West Coast Main Line cancelled following the discovery of “significant technical flaws” in the way the process was conducted.
The decision means the department will no longer be awarding a franchise contract to run the West Coast service when the current franchise expires on December 9th.
It is consequently no longer contesting the judicial review sought by Virgin Trains in the High Court.
The flaws uncovered relate to the way the procurement was conducted by department officials.
The government is presently thought to be resolving the future arrangements for operation of the West Coast and will ensure that train services continue uninterrupted.
McLoughlin stressed today that passengers will continue to be served by the same trains and frontline staff.
The Transport Secretary has also ordered two independent reviews to be undertaken urgently: 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.
McLoughlin said: “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.
“The tickets that people have booked will continue to be valid and passengers will be able to make their journeys as planned.”