Stagecoach commences further legal action against govt

Stagecoach and its partners SNCF and Virgin have commenced legal action against the Department for Transport (DfT) over its decision to disqualify its bid attempt for the West Coast Partnership franchise.

The DfT denied further bidding from Stagecoach and its partners, known as the West Coast Trains Partnership Limited, due to concerns that it has failed to safeguard the risk of sections of the Railways Pension Scheme.

The claim has been issued at the High Court, alongside a judicial review claim, and alleges that the DfT breached its statutory duties in connection with the procurement of the ongoing competition for the franchise.

This is the second case of legal action Stagecoach has taken against the government, after it announced it would be taking action over its East Midlands Railway franchise bid disqualification earlier this month (10 May).

Aspects of the claims vary but both are based on West Coast Trains Partnership Limited's refusal to accept the pension risks that the DfT requires operators to bear in relation to the new franchises.

Commenting on the announcement, Stagecoach chief executive, Martin Griffiths, said: "It is disappointing that we have had to resort to court action to find out the truth around the DfT's decision-making process in each of these competitions.

“However, we hope court scrutiny will shine a light on the franchising process and help restore both public and investor confidence in the country's rail system."

In response to the legal claim, a DfT spokesperson said: “Stagecoach is an experienced bidder who knowingly submitted non-compliant bids on all competitions. In doing so, they disqualified themselves.

“We do not comment on legal proceedings. However, we have total confidence in our franchise competition process and will robustly defend decisions that were taken fairly following a thorough and impartial evaluation process.”

Virgin senior partner, Patrick McCall retorted: "It is extremely frustrating that the reason our bid was disqualified has nothing to do with looking after passengers or running a good train service.

"Dubbed 'mission impossible' when we first started, we've created a successful business which has paid almost a billion pounds to taxpayers in the last five years alone.

"The DfT has ignored this track record and instead focused on which bidder is reckless enough to take on various unquantifiable risks, such as pensions."

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