Wednesday 3 October 2012


Others have already posted on this, so no great detail here, but I couldn't let it pass without wee word.

When the government announced a few weeks ago that the West Coast Line franchise was to be taken from Virgin and given to First, and Branson kicked off about it, the MSM invited "railway experts", economists and the like, to comment on the extremely low cost of the winning bid.

Their opinions ranged from the "rather difficult to see how they will manage to perform to the required level" to the  "it's utterly laughable". 

I don't remember one single commentator indicating that it was a reasonable bid. Only the English Secretary of State for Transport (who has oversight of cross border transport) was adamant that this was a good deal for taxpayers and travellers alike. 

(Fat chance, we all thought.)

Now, a day before a judge was due to hear evidence at the judicial review called for by Richard Branson ('with whom, don't mess', goes the advice in business circles), the Department For Transport has admitted that there were fundamental flaws in the bidding process and that therefore the whole thing will have to start over again from zero.

The details, given at the time, that suggested that First's figures were predicated on the assumption of a 10% increase in business year on year over  the 15 year life of the contract, raised most people's eyebrows! But it now appears that the executives of the DFT had forgotten to take account of inflation. [Interestingly, I read the other day that some economists predict that inflation will run wild, easily into double figures, in a few years as a result of the quantitative easing carried out by the Bank of England.]

So, quelle surprise, this 'good deal' that Mrs Greening and her predecessor, Philip Hammond, arranged for us, is in reality going to cost us an arm and a leg, as all parties who bid, not just for the West Coast Line, but for  many other lines in England, will have to be recompensed for their wasted time.  Costs per bid are said to be around £15 million (why?), so that's £60 million for the West Coast Line alone.

Staff at the DFT, they tell us, have been suspended (doubtless either very junior ones, or 'on full pay', or both).

In the meantime either Virgin will continue to run the line, or the DFT will have to take it on under the same organisation that runs the East Coast Line, which fell to the government after another fiasco involving National Express, which made an unrealistic bid, and the London government, which found that it had got its sums wrong. (Imagine not being able to make a go of the railway line between Edinburgh and London, with connections to Paris and Brussels! It beggars belief.)

No wonder Philip Hammond was sent to the War Office. They are notorious for wasting public money. He should fit in well.

The thing that worries me more than anything is that the Transport Select Committee invited the new Transport Secretary, Paddy McLoughlin, to give evidence only two or three weeks ago, and he assured them that the bidding process was "robust". It seems that this committee had no other option than to take him at his word: a word which seems not to have been worth the oxygen used to produce it.

I wonder how robust the process will be that discovers what went wrong, and how so many people from the management that devised the bidding process to the cabinet minister who signed it off could have been quite so stupid. 


  1. I believe the only thing present day politicos and their mandarins consider stupid is being found out to be corrupt.

  2. Looks like things will follow the usual scenario. A few 'officials' suspended. The person in charge 'moved on' ( Greening), lessons learned etc.
    The same thing is going on everywhere. Hospitals, health service, search and rescue and even emergency oxygen suppliers ( air products dumped in favour of an unknown supplier).
    Snouts to be satisfied I suppose. Jobs for the boys when they move from the public to the private sector. General breakdown in civilisation.
    Mostly forced onto us by EU diktats that we can't challenge. Everything now for sale to the highest bidder in the EU.

  3. Don't worry "Lessons will be learned" one day in the next millenium if you believe in miracles.

  4. Brown envelopes everywhere methinks.

  5. Yep OR... Idiots. They got caught! :)

  6. The truth of course is that you can challenge EU directives. Indeed many can be simply ignored. The UK however, manages to ignore that and sign them all into law, Monty.

  7. Lessons will not, of course, be learned, CH. Someone somewhere was probably getting a bung from someone somewhere. After all when you consider that the royals are corrupt; the lords are, the commons, the police, the press and the BBC, it is beyond belief that the civil service is above all that sort of stuff.

    The ministers clearly didn't bother checking any of it.

    I heard tonight that the figures failed to take into consideration....erm.... passengers.

    So no consideration of passengers and no consideration of inflation. Hmmm...

    Someone must have wanted the bung very much, I imagine, allegedly ....erm....

  8. Large brown envelopes that had the effect of making people forget inflation and passenger numbers when they were looking at a costing for running a railway. Hmmm.

    I imagine they must have been VERY large.

    Anyone bought a villa in the Bahamas recently?

  9. Interesting piece; thanks CH.

  10. I am not in favour of the EU but I would rather know the truth or nearest to it to make an informed decision , the UK is run on spin which is why we are all so dizzy.

    The Inadequacies of Western Politics

  11. cynical...can you give me a UK law that isn't subservient to an EU or ECHR Law ?
    Or can't be easily overridden by a future law voted in by majority voting in the EU ?
    Fishing, transport, drugs, health policy, health n safety, oil exploration, farming etc...all subservient to EU Law.
    I'm disappointed that you're happy even if it were just 15% of our laws. Who voted for the EU Commissioners to bring in these laws that rule over us ?

  12. what a way to run a railway.............

    bout the same as the Nats run a 'Yes' campaign shambloodybolic.
    didnt one of the snp (homophobic)paymasters screw up on a rail franchise and had to walk away

    still sack a few plebs oops! I mean civil servants

    Its all about the ministerial irresponsibility code.

  13. Monty

    Err! hate to point out we had a referendum and the haters(thats you) lost.

    the worlds a big place monty why dont you go to another nation

  14. I absolutely refuse to be drawn into an argument on the EU... but feel free to carry on without me guys :)

  15. The "nats" are not running a YES campaign, Niko. The YES campaign is running a YES campaign. :)

    Pay attention.

  16. Niko...err that vote was for a Common market and was about 40 years ago. We've now got a fiscal and political union ( Ted Heath betrayed us). Nothing like what Ted said at all.

    cynical..can you give me a UK law that isn't subservient to an EU or ECHR Law ?
    Or can't be easily overridden by a future law voted in by majority voting in the EU ?

  17. Niko: I'm not aware of any such situation Niko, but I'm sure you will correct me if I'm wrong,.

    But in any case, the SNP can't really be held responsible for Stagecoach's business practices, good or bad.

    The guy contributes to its funds because as a businessman he has more confidence in Scots than Mr Osborne does. He's also very religious and disapproves, like the church does, of homosexuals.

    The SNP can't really be responsible for his religious beliefs or his prejudices.

    As it goes I think he was bang out of order to pay from some sort of referendum. It was stupid and could never have had any force of law, but hey, he has money to burn.

    I'm sure Mrs Lamont doesn't feel responsible for every business arrangement of her funders, nor for their religious persuasions.

    I suspect that once we start talking about homophobia, all parties will have their share.

  18. Monty I voted against the EU way back mainly over the NS fishing but we are where we are. What I object to is blaming all ills on the EU when it is often the UK MEPs who are not defending all of our interests and only a select few to suit their friends in the City.

    I can't answer your questions as I don't know the answers sorry.

  19. cynical..the UK MEP's are powerless to protect us so are irrelevant.
    Thanks for your honesty re - ignorance of our subservience to the EU.