In August, First Group, operator of school buses in DeKalb and Great Western trains in Britain, outbid Virgin Group for the West Coast Main Line franchise (think Britain's Chicago and North Western with the Eastern Route Main Line in the role of The Milwaukee Road.)

The British agency that reviews bids and awards franchises confessed to errors in comparing the bids.
The blame for the errors is being placed on civil servants, and three [Department for Transport] staff have beens suspended, pending possible disciplinary action.

Responding to the Government's announcement on the West Coast franchise, a Virgin Rail Group spokesman said: "We welcome today's frank announcement by the Secretary of State, acknowledging the flaws in the way the InterCity West Coast competition was assessed and launching a review into franchising more widely.

"We are ready to play a full part in assisting the review to help deliver a franchising system that better serves passengers, taxpayers and the interests of all bidders.

"In the meantime, we will assist the Department for Transport in ensuring continuity of service for the millions of customers who depend on train services on the West Coast mainline."
Virgin Trains will continue as operator for now.
The Transport Secretary had only two options – one was the Virgin option, the second was to ask Directly Operated Railways to take over the franchise, and in the case of the latter, it was not thought possible to hire in senior railway managers to head operations at less than two months notice, and change all the supplied contracts as well as those for staff and rolling stock. This normally takes 120 days.

As Virgin’s safety case runs until October 2013, [Transport Secretary Patrick] McLoughlin has taken the safe and sensible option that will give the best continuity and an option most welcome to passengers.

He said: “I believe Virgin remaining as operator for a short period of time is the best way and my officials and I will be working flat out to make this happen.

“My priority now is to fix the problem and the first step is to take urgent action to ensure that on the 9 December services continue to run to the same standard and passengers are not affected.”
William Stanier and Robert Riddles could not be reached for comment.

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