West Coast waste for commuters

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A city politician has dubbed the failed West Coast Mainline discussions, which cost more than £50 million, a waste of time and money.

Labour Parliamentary spokesman, Andrew Pakes, said the Government needs to learn from the shambles.

In December last year Virgin Trains was awarded the franchise for another 23 months following an eleventh hour collapse of a deal to award the franchise to FirstGroup.

Ministers had planned to give Virgin an extension of up to 13 months, then re-tender for a short-term franchise, before running a competition for the long-term contract.

Mr Pakes said: “The Government appears to be refusing to learn lessons from this shambles. They need to put passengers before profit because this represents nearly two years of wasted money and very few improvements.

“They may save money in the short term, but they will cost much more in the long term. The government is completely out of touch with people who want cheaper fares and more improvements.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The independent Laidlaw inquiry published in December, identified the unique and exceptional circumstances which led to failures in the West Coast franchising programme and crucially what steps the Department should take to prevent this from happening again.

“The Department has accepted all the recommendations and has taken immediate steps by bringing together all rail activity under a single director general and recruiting a senior director to lead the franchising programme, as well as improving internal governance and strengthening oversight and accountability. Not only will these reinforce the franchising process, but will also protect rail infrastructure projects such as HS2 and the biggest programme of rail electrification.”