Latest Rail News

20.04.18

Grayling threatened with legal action over East Coast rail franchise failings

Campaigners are threatening to take transport secretary Chris Grayling to court over his failure to stop the companies behind the failed Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) from bidding for other franchises in future.

Bring Back British Rail has teamed up with public law expert Leigh Day to hold Grayling to account for his decision to allow Stagecoach and Virgin to “simply walk away” and run other franchises. For example, the two transport giants were recently awarded a two-year extension on the West Coast contract.

The VTEC fiasco has been gathering much attention since last year, when the transport secretary confirmed that the franchise was going to end in 2020 – three years earlier than planned – at which point a new operator would run the service under a public-private agreement.

In response, Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson hit out at Network Rail early this year, blaming the organisation for failing to live up to major promises it had made on vital infrastructure improvements.

Later on, in early February, Grayling admitted that the franchise could be only a “small number of months” from collapsing. He told ministers at the Commons that the government might have to take control of the failing operation and revealed that the operators had breached a “key financial covenant.”

Since then, a formal inquiry has been launched by the Transport Committee into the fiasco, which would mark the third time the East Coast franchise has collapsed in just over 10 years.

Now, campaigners are arguing that the service should never have been re-privatised in 2015 and have hired lawyers to take Grayling to court. Leigh Day has written to the secretary of state requesting him to confirm whether he will revoke the Franchise Passports granted to Stagecoach and Virgin, and whether the costs of terminating the franchise “have in fact been met or could be expected to be met by the fulfilment of Stagecoach’s obligations.”

While they expect this to be a “landmark judicial review case” that will expose the “farce of rail franchising for the shameful waste of public money that it is,” the DfT thinks differently. Grayling’s office said in a statement that there “is no basis for legal action.”

“Virgin Stagecoach have met all of their financial commitments as set out in the East Coast franchise agreements,” a spokesman claimed.

Campaigners are hoping to raise £15,000 to pay for the initial costs of taking this action, but want to raise another £15,000 to cover all potential cost liability in case of a full legal challenge. At time of publication, almost 400 people had already pledged over £7,500.

(Top image c. Dominic Lipinski, PA Wire)

Enjoying RTM? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

Rail industry Focus

View all News

Comment

The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >

Most Read

'the sleepers' blog

Maximising efficiency requires investment in data, but it’s rewards for rail could be extensive

14/11/2019Maximising efficiency requires investment in data, but it’s rewards for rail could be extensive

Rail Technology Magazine’s Matt Roberts explains the significant role data can play within the future development of the rail industry. Standing as a cornerstone of the UK transport network, the rail industry is forever striving to in... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

Interviews

Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he would not rule out his organisation issuing future r... more >
Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

08/05/2019Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

In answering the pressing questions of how current and future generations of managers can provide solutions to high-profile infrastructure projects across the UK, Pearson Business School, part of... more >