THE PROSPECTIVE franchisee for the West Coast Main Line contract has said they are “extremely disappointed” the deal has been scrapped.
Representatives of FirstGroup, who were set to take on the service which serves Stafford station from Virgin Trains in December, said they were given no indication there were any issues in the bidding process which has since been called “flawed” by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
A spokesman for FirstGroup said they were notified late on Tuesday night the Department of Transport had discovered “significant technical flaws” in the way the franchise process was conducted and had consequently cancelled the deal.
“We are extremely disappointed to learn this news,” he said. “We understand the DfT has ordered two urgent independent inquiries into the West Coast competition and the wider DfT rail franchise programme.
He said up until that point FirstGroup had received assurances from the Department of Transport their processes were robust and they expected to sign the contract imminently.
“We submitted a strong bid, in good faith and in strict accordance with the DfT's terms,” he said. “Our bid would have delivered a better deal for West Coast passengers, the taxpayer and an appropriate return for shareholders.”
He added FirstGroup would now await the outcome of the DfT’s inquiries.