Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale Tim Farron has today thanked local residents for their support after the government scrapped the decision to award the West Coast Main Line rail franchise to FirstGroup, saying the bidding process was flawed.
Tim Farron has previously called for the West Coast Main Line franchise process to be debated in Parliament, after a petition urging that the Government reconsider the decision gained over 165,000 signatures.
Tim Farron also wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, to ask for the opportunity to make his case for an Emergency Debate.
Late last night, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced that the competition to run trains on the West Coast Main Line has been cancelled following the discovery of significant technical flaws in the way the franchise process was conducted.
The decision means that the Department for Transport (DfT) will no longer be awarding a franchise contract to run the West Coast service when the current franchise expires on December 9. It is consequently no longer contesting the judicial review sought by Virgin Trains in the High Court.
The flaws uncovered relate to the way the procurement was conducted by department officials. An announcement will be made later today concerning the suspension of staff while an investigation takes place.
Announcing the suspension, Patrick McLoughlin said:
“I have had to cancel the competition for the running of the West Coast franchise because of deeply regrettable and completely unacceptable mistakes made by my department in the way it managed the process.”
Speaking this morning, Tim Farron said:
“The West Coast Main Line is without doubt the biggest issue local people have raised with me over the past few weeks. I have fought our communities’ corner in Westminster over the last few weeks and done everything I can to make sure the government knows the anger that local residents feel about this issue.
“I have always said that announcing the franchise decision during recess when MPs were not in Westminster and not able to properly hold the government to account was unfair and unacceptable. Now we know that there were ‘technical flaws’ in the bidding process, I welcome that we have to start the process again. I don’t like how we got here, but I welcome the result. What needs to happen this time is residents, passengers and commuters need to be given a real say in the bidding process – people this time must be listen to!”