U-turn over rail services plan

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THE plan to re-shape rail services through Wigan has been scrapped.

In August this year, it was announced that transport company FirstGroup would take over the running of the West Coast Main Line from the Virgin Group, which passes through Wigan North Western.

However, in a dramatic u-turn, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has revealed that Department for Transport staff had made mistakes in the process and it will now be re-run.

Two inquiries have been launched into the blunder and it is estimated to cost the government around £40m.

FirstGroup released a statement, saying: “We were notified late last night that the Department for Transport (DfT) has apparently discovered significant technical flaws in the way its franchise process for the InterCity West Coast was conducted and has consequently cancelled the competition for this franchise.

“We understand the DfT has ordered two urgent independent inquiries into the West Coast competition and the wider DfT rail franchise programme.

“Until this point we had absolutely no indication that there were any issues with the franchise letting process and had received assurances from the DfT that its processes were robust and that it expected to sign the contract with FirstGroup 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.

“We submitted a strong bid, in good faith and in strict accordance with the DfT’s terms.

“Our bid would have delivered a better deal for West Coast passengers, the taxpayer and an appropriate return for shareholders.”