‘Shambolic’: Manchester MP slams £50million taxpayer cost over West Coast Mainline fiasco

By Glen Keogh

Taxpayers shelled out almost £50million because of ministerial failures over the West Coast Mainline Manchester to London service fiasco.

The startling figure has been released following calls from Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell, who is also a member of the Transport Select Committee, for a comprehensive breakdown of costs.

Ms Powell welcomed a report published today by the committee which branded ministers ‘ultimately responsible’ for the breakdown.

She said: “The West Coast Mainline is crucial to Manchester’s economy and mistakes put vital investment in Manchester at risk.

“Now that the Government has committed to high speed rail, people also deserve to know that the Secretary of State and his department have learnt from their mistakes and can deliver a project of this scale without the shambolic processes we saw in this situation.”

The report points to a ‘complex -perhaps unworkable franchising policy’, with ‘irresponsible decisions’ made ‘in haste’ contributing to the farce.

A Department for Transport spokesman said this morning: “While we are currently working to minimise the impact on the taxpayer, we estimate the failure of the competition and subsequent independent inquiries is around £48m.

“Independent experts concluded the collapse of the West Coast franchise programme was caused by a number of failures including inadequate planning and weak governance structure but not systematic failings in the Department.

“The examination of emails from key officials found no evidence that this was anything other than simple human error.”

The report points out that there were a number of problems within the Department for Transport which contributed to the failure to identify and escalate problems with the franchise competition.

In particular, ‘there were no senior staff directly involved with the procurement project, no one person clearly in charge, and a lack of senior oversight of the project team.’

The Department for Transport initially awarded FirstGroup the West Coast Main Line contract in a move Virgin Rail boss Sir Richard Branson branded ‘preposterous and flawed.’

They then performed a dramatic U-turn by rewarding the contract to Virgin Rail after the company launched a legal challenge regarding the bidding process. 

Picture courtesy of JamesZ, with thanks.

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