Latest Rail News

29.08.12

Franchise sign-off delayed as Virgin launches judicial review

Virgin has applied for a judicial review of the West Coast Main Line franchise decision. This will force a delay to the contract signing between the Department for Transport and FirstGroup, which was due this morning.

The high court is expected to decide if there are grounds for a review within two weeks and a formal review could take up to three months, up until December 9 when the new franchise is planned to begin.

A statement released by Virgin Trains read: “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.”

Yesterday, transport secretary Justine Greening suggested that Virgin would have been “perfectly happy” with the bidding process if they had been declared the winner.

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.”

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