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MPs to scrutinise West Coast Main Line deal

MPs on the Public Accounts Committee are to scrutinise the government’s decision to award the 15-year West Coast Main Line franchise to First Group, it was revealed yesterday.

In a statement, the committee said that because it was the first of the longer franchises being let by the Department for Transport it wants to see that lessons from past failures to secure value for money have been learnt.

“We have expressed concerns before about the department’s capability in predicting accurate passenger numbers and reflecting the impact of economic conditions on train operator’s revenue,” it continued. “Questions over its capability have now been raised again and while we welcome healthy competition it is essential that the department has exercised proper due diligence in the letting of this franchise.

“In the short-term the Public Accounts Committee can look at the processes adopted by the department to respond to our previous recommendations, such as strengthening its testing of bidders’ assumptions. In the long term we can make a more rigorous assessment of whether the franchise is delivering a good deal for the public.”

Readers' comments (3)

  • Christopher Sullivan

    Are you sure this doesn't have something to do with the excellent epetition going around which will no doubt attract a lot of people for a variety of reasons. My reason for supporting the petition is not necessarily quality of service or price but the fact that Virgin/Stagecoach is a small player in what would otherwise be a FirstGroup dominated industry. Why would the government want to help create a virtual monopoly of the passenger services, or have I been hoodwinked by Virgins superior marketing machine here?

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  • As a matter of interest from someone not involved in railways, what happens to all of Virgin's rolling stock? Is it simply repainted and handed over to FirstGroup?

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  • Robert - the trains are leased from a separate company who retain ownership. The new train operating company leases them from this company, and over time will re-livery them.

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