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12.10.12

West Coast errors the responsibility of officials – Rutnam

The most senior civil servant at the DfT has apologised to former transport secretary Justine Greening over the West Coast franchise disaster.

It has emerged that Greening had ordered a full-scale review of the process, the results of which led her replacement Patrick McLoughlin to abandon the bidding process. 

DfT permanent secretary Philip Rutnam apologised for the errors, and reiterated that Greening was not responsible for the mistakes that were made. 

In his note to Greening, the Guardian reported, Rutnam said the problem was “clearly the responsibility of officials and not ministers” and acknowledged that during the franchise process “both you and Theresa Villiers were assured by officials in this department that the process was robust and sound”. That was “manifestly not the case”, he said. 

On Monday, McLoughlin is to announce who will run the line from December 9. The rail union RMT has jumped on rumours that incumbent Virgin will be awarded an 18-month ‘pay as you go’ extension of its contract, and are campaigning for renationalisation ubstead. 

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Once again the DfT is leaking like a sieve, just as it did when First were awarded the WCML in August, with briefings flying around that a short term fix is on the cards to keep Richard Branson quiet and avoid the logical move to public ownership of the railways which the vast majority of the British people support.” 

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