Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Transport Committee

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has told MPs that mistakes made over the West Coast Main Line rail franchise were "very regrettable".

Giving evidence to the Transport Committee on 31 October 2012, he apologised to taxpayers who are now facing a £40m bill following the decision to scrap the West Coast franchise process after serious errors were found by the Department for Transport (DfT).

Taxpayers "have a right to expect better", he told the committee, admitting that the implications of the flawed franchise process were "very serious" for the Department for Transport (DfT).

FirstGroup had been due to take over the running of the line from current operator Virgin Trains in December, but now the government must look at re-running the competition and keeping the line in operation for an interim period.

At £5.5bn, FirstGroup had offered considerably more money than Virgin Trains for the 15-year contract, as well as offering to pay much more in compensation should the firm prove unable to fulfil it.

Virgin called into question the government's decision, arguing that FirstGroup's bid did not stack up and represented a far greater risk than its own.

The department has suspended three officials who may face further disciplinary action once an investigation has been completed.

The "temporary" contract will allow Virgin to remain the West Coast Mainline operator for between nine and 13 months while a competition is run for an interim franchise agreement.

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