Virgin Trains, a UK-based train company, has commenced court proceedings against a decision by the UK’s Department of Transport to award the West Coast Main Line franchise to FirstGroup, a Scotland-based transport company.
Virgin Trains has been operating the railway service since 1997, but the Department for Transport has awarded the new franchise contract for December 2012 to 2026 to First Group. Angered by the decision, the company has collected around 150,000 signatures for a campaign to force a parliamentary discussion over the allotting of the contract to First Group.
Confirming the legal action, a company statement said, ‘We have tried for three weeks to get clarity over the Department for Transport’s decision and to have a number of key questions answered. On each occasion we have been refused information.
We are left with no choice but to commence Court proceedings as we believe the procurement process has ignored the substantial risks to taxpayers and customers of delivering FirstGroup’s bid over the course of the franchise.’
Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, said, ‘We had hoped that Parliament or an external review would be able to scrutinise this badly flawed process before the franchise was signed. However that opportunity would be denied if the DfT follows through with its determination to rush through the process before Parliament returns next week.
That ignores the wishes of more than 150,000 people who signed the Downing St e-petition in 10 days, the Labour Opposition, two important Commons committees and many backbench Conservative MPs who wanted a debate before the decision is taken, not a post-mortem afterwards.
We have not taken this decision lightly, but it is the only course now available to try to unravel this sorry process.’
The company claims that the Department for Transport’s own review placed Virgin’s bid as more deliverable and at lower risk.