Virgin Trains launch legal action against Transport Secretary
Sir Richard Branson has launched a legal challenge against Transport Secretary Chris Grayling's decision to bar Virigin Trains, and its partner Stagecoach, from the bidding process to acquire West Coast Rail.
Branson has filed claims with the High Court calling for a judicial review of the procurement process, stating that the government did not adopt a competitive tendering approach.
The Department for Transport is already contesting legal challenges from Arriva and Stagecoach over the manner in which it tendered the East Midlands rail franchise. The government branded three of Stagecoach’s bids “non-compliant” back in April, amid a row over pensions.
The West Coast line is currently jointly operated by both Virgin Trains and Stagecoach with the proposed re-tender bringing on board the French state-controlled operator, SNCF.
“Stagecoach is an experienced bidder who knowingly submitted non-compliant bids on all competitions. In doing so they disqualified themselves”, said a DfT spokesperson.
“We have total confidence in our franchise competition process and robustly defend decisions that were taken fairly following a thorough and impartial evaluation process”.
The statement has faced backlash from both companies, as Stagecoach chief-executive Martin Griffiths said it is “disappointing” that the transport giant “had to resort to court action to find out the truth around the DfT’s decision-making process” over each bid.
Patrick McCall, Virgin Trains senior partner, described the situation as “frustrating”, claiming that the reason for the bid’s rejection had “nothing to do with looking after passengers or running a good train service”.