West Coast Mainline contract scrapping branded a 'fiasco'

By Dan Santy Wednesday 03 October 2012 Updated: 10/10 09:07

THE SCRAPPING of First Group's contract for the multi-billion-pound West Coast Mainline has been labelled a fiasco by Rugby Rail Users Group.

RRUG - which represents the borough's train users - spoke out after last night's (Tuesday) announcement by the Government it was cancelling First Group's contract because of 'significant technical flaws' in the bidding process.

Department for Transport staff are being blamed for the mistakes, and three civil servants have been suspended.

The cost of reimbursing four companies for their bids will amount to around £40 million of taxpayers' money.

When First Group's takeover of the line Virgin Trains has run for the last 13 years was announced in August, it was met with caution from both RRUG and Rugby's MP Mark Pawsey.

And after last night's announcement, the saga has been labelled a 'complete waste of time' by RRUG chair Stephanie Clifford.

"When the contract was first awarded, we were wary about First Group and their record on other services," she said.

"But the only thing we're interested in is getting a good train service for Rugby. It doesn't matter what colour the trains are or who is running them, as long as we get them.

"The whole thing has been an absolute fiasco, and a waste of everyone's time and money.

"In terms of Rugby, we didn't really have all the details about what First Group was offering. There was no mention of restoring services to Scotland and the north-west.

"Virgin had hinted at it to us, but they're the ones who cut it in the first place in 2008 which really got under people's skin.

"In terms of passenger numbers, trains to London and Birmingham are far more important, but just having those extra directions available means a lot to Rugby as a station.

"Also we only have one fast train an hour to London, which isn't enough."

Rugby's MP Mark Pawsey said he was shocked to hear First Group's contract had been cancelled.

He said: "Virgin have done a pretty good job, so I always thought any tender for the line would be given maximum scrutiny, so I am surprised this has happened.

"It's embarrassing really and it knocks your confidence in the decision making process. Virgin were right to dig their heels in over this.

"Getting this right is very important for Rugby. I've been contacted by people on both sides of the argument, with some wanting to Virgin to stay and others who are not that impressed and would like to give somebody else a go."

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