The Department for Transport (DfT) has made a u-turn on its decision to award the West Coast mainline contract to the FirstGroup.
Newly-appointed transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said members of his team had made “deeply regrettable and completely unacceptable mistakes” in the decision process.
The DfT gave the contract to FirstGroup in favour of Virgin Trains, which will continue to operate services until an independent review is carried out to the procurement process. Its contract is due to end on 9 December.
FirstGroup said it was unaware of any issues in the process and had expected to sign the contract soon.
“We are extremely disappointed to learn this news and await the outcome of the DfT’s inquiries. The DfT has made it clear to us that we are in no way at fault, having followed the due process correctly,” its statement read.
Sir Richard Branson had previously taken to the courts in his fight to keep the franchise and today said he was grateful for the independent review.
“We were convinced the process was flawed but despite our best efforts we were met with silence by the Department for Transport. 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,” he wrote in his blog.