Halton MP slams West Coast train fiasco 'an absolute shambles'

First published in News Runcorn and Widnes World: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

THE Government’s decision to scrap the multi-billion pound West Coast main line franchise to First Group has been slammed by Halton MP Derek Twigg as an “absolute shambles”.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin abandoned the contract after discovering “significant techncal flaws” in the bidding process.

Three civil servants have been suspended, pending a full investigation.

First Choice had beaten current operator, Virgin to win the 13-year franchise.

Errors only came to light when civil servants were gathering evidence to contest a judicial review made by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains.

Mr Twigg blasted Ministers for the fiasco which could cost taxpayers £40 million to reimburse the four bidders.

Mr Twigg, who regularly commutes from Runcorn to London, said: “It is an appalling situation. It is shocking that it got to this stage when we were all raising our concerns.

“It was clear there were serious problems with the Government’s calculations. Ministers have got to take responsibility. They must be held to account and not blame civil servants.”

Mr Twigg, a rail Minister for 18 months, raised the issue in Parliament in September.

He said : “Runcorn station is one of the best used stations on the West Coast.The staff there are fantastic and very helpful. I worry about their employment and their future.

“Virgin has made improvements but it is the staff who are its strength.”

Mr Twigg believes franchising is flawed and should now be shelved.

He thinks the Government’s own holding company, which has been running the East Coat main line since 2009, should take over.

He said: “I would like to see an end to franchising.

“I think the department’s own management team should run these contracts. They’ve got the experience to do it.

“This has been an absolute shambles.”

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