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West Coast Main Line

Volume 551: debated on Monday 15 October 2012

On Wednesday 3 October 2012, I announced the cancellation of the inter-city west coast franchise procurement following the discovery of significant technical flaws in the way the franchise process was conducted by the Department for Transport.

I immediately ordered two independent investigations to be undertaken urgently. The first, led by Sam Laidlaw, who is the chief executive of Centrica, lead non-executive on procurement across the Government, and lead non-executive member of the departmental board is examining what happened during the west coast procurement and why, with the aim of establishing the lessons to be learned. The second review, led by Richard Brown, chairman of Eurostar, is focusing on any lessons to be learned for the upcoming franchising programme.

I also announced, that the ongoing franchising programme should be paused, pending the outcome of the two investigations. This included pausing the live competitions on Essex Thameside, Great Western and Thameslink.

This morning at 7 am, I have made a further announcement to the London stock exchange, that the Department for Transport is commencing negotiations with Virgin Rail Group with a view to them remaining as operator of passenger services for the west coast main line for a short period, of around nine to 13 months while we run a competition for an interim franchise agreement. This interim agreement, which would be open to any bidders, will then run until a new long-term west coast franchise is ready to commence.

I shall update the House further, later today.