Latest Rail News

03.09.12

Concerns with franchise ran over two years – Virgin

The war of words between Virgin Trains and the Government continues, as Virgin responds to claims that the company only started to challenge the bidding process once they had lost the bid.

Virgin has pointed to ‘several meetings’ expressing concerns with the process for over two years prior to the award of the West Coast Main Line franchise to FirstGroup.

The company submitted an application for a judicial review of the bidding process on September 28.

Justine Greening, transport secretary, recently commented that Virgin “raised no concerns with [the] process until it emerged that they had lost the bid”. 

And the DfT said on Friday: “Ongoing dialogue on the franchise specification is a normal feature of the tendering process.

“However, it is only in the last few weeks that one of the losing bidders has begun complaining that process itself was flawed.

“We note that none of the other unsuccessful bidders are complaining about the process and that Stagecoach is actively involved in other ongoing franchise competitions based on the same process, without complaint.”

“The DfT’s process examined and rigorously tested the bids in detail. We won the bid fair and square and we are not about to replay it in public for the benefit of the loser,” a FirstGroup spokesman said.

But in a letter to the FT, Sir Richard said the team at Virgin Rail had been “in dialogue with the Department for Transport for more than two years”.

He added: “In particular, we focused on the assessment and deliverability of risks involved in such long and volatile franchises.”

Tony Collins, chief executive officer for Virgin Rail Group said: “There must be some misunderstanding at DfT.

“We have had several meetings over the last two or three years where we have expressed our concerns over the bid process, how it evaluates the bids and how it leads to the sorts of failures we have seen on EC with NatEx and GNER.”

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