Page last updated at 12:21 GMT, Thursday, 6 December 2012

West Coast rail inquiry finds 'unacceptable flaws'

The inquiry into the West Coast Mainline rail franchise fiasco has found "serious problems" and "unacceptable flaws", Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has told MPs.

In a statement to the Commons on 6 December 2012, Mr McLoughlin said the report made for "uncomfortable reading" for his department.

"They caused serious problems for the bidding firms, including FirstGroup, who were in no way at fault. They must and will be acted upon," he said.

The inquiry examined why the £5bn deal to run the West Coast rail franchise collapsed in October.

First Group was initially told it had won, but the tendering process was halted because the Department for Transport made mistakes with their calculations.

Mr McLoughlin said ministers "made the original provisional award without being told about the flaws and after being given inaccurate reports".

The transport secretary had earlier announced that Virgin Trains will run the West Coast Mainline for a further 23 months. A full competition will be run the longer-term franchise.

He assured MPs passengers would continue to enjoy the same level of service on the West Coast "and in some cases better".

He said he hoped new services would be in place from London to Blackpool and Shrewsbury by December 2013.

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said the final report was "damning" and accused the government of incompetence.

She called on the transport secretary to "come clean ... on the full cost to taxpayers" of the collapse of the franchise, citing media reports that it could run into "hundreds of millions of pounds".


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