Full text of Sir Richard Branson's blog on FirstGroup's flawed contract to run the West Coast Mainline, cancelled by the Government due to "significant technical flaws" in the bidding process.
I took a call this evening in New York from the UK Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, telling me that he will no longer be awarding the West Coast Main Line franchise to FirstGroup.
From the moment we found out that FirstGroup had been made the preferred bidder with a completely unrealistic bid, we questioned the way the offers had been assessed, and asked Government to review and explain how it came to its decision.
We were convinced the process was flawed but despite our best efforts we were met with silence by the Department for Transport. We also asked for government to appoint an independent advisor to look at the situation, which was turned down. Reluctantly we were forced to seek a judicial review. Tomorrow the DfT were meant to have given their evidence to the court.
I am pleased to say that the DfT has looked at all of the facts and found significant flaws in the way it's officials handled the process. They have basically acknowledged that what we had been saying is correct. The same procedures were not followed and "deeply regrettable and completely unacceptable mistakes" were made by the Department.
At the House of Commons Select Committee we called for all franchise competitions to be paused and a thorough, independent review of the process. We are grateful that Patrick McLoughlin is now doing this.
We also appreciate the DfT publicly acknowledging these errors, and are hopeful they will now accept that Virgin Trains should carry on running the West Coast Main Line and ensure that passengers continue receiving our team's award-winning service.
Finally, I would like to thank our staff for their incredible work through unsettling times and to all our passengers who have been so supportive. I would particularly like to thank those who signed Ross McKillop's e-petition that resulted in the House of Commons debate, and all those who believed that we were right in thinking there was a case to answer.
By Richard Branson. Founder of Virgin Group