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Rail bid by Virgin and Stagecoach was 'naive', say MPs

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A "naive" bid by Stagecoach and Virgin to run the Intercity East Coast rail franchise led to its failure, according to a MPs' report.The Transport Select Committee said the two companies' assessment of the financial risk associated with their bid was wholly inadequate.It also says the Department for Transport (DfT) must take the blame for not managing the bid effectively.The rail franchise was taken back under government control in June.The joint venture, known as Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), 90% owned by Stagecoach and 10% owned by Virgin, took over the franchise in 2015. It estimated that revenues would grow 10% a year, when in reality they grew by only 3%.
The select committee's report said: "There was very little resilience built into the bid by Stagecoach and Virgin and it bid for the franchise on very optimistic grounds."This was naive, and it should have been more aware of the financial risks involved."
Paying a price
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling terminated the franchise contract in June this year and created the East Coast Partnership to take over the route. He said at the time: "Stagecoach and Virgin Trains got their bid wrong and they are now paying a price."However, The chairman of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood, said: "The Secretary of State pointed the finger at Stagecoach and Virgin for getting their bids wrong, but the Department is not blameless.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling - "pointed the finger at Stagecoach and Virgin"
The select committee's report said the DfT had not conducted appropriate due diligence which would have spotted the weaknesses of the bid, while the structure of the bid process encouraged overbidding.Ms Greenwood added: "Even now, there is no concrete plan, nor timescales, for the interim operator of this franchise. From our inquiry, we cannot be sure, and cannot reassure passengers or public, that the arrangements for the East Coast Partnership will more successfully overcome the systemic difficulties presented by the current set-up. The Department of Transport said in a statement: "The Department carried out a rigorous assessment at the time the VTEC franchise was let in 2015 to ensure that the bid was realistic and in the best interests of taxpayers and passengers. "However, Stagecoach rightly took a degree of risk around their assumptions."The Department is continuously improving its risk assessment process to reduce the likelihood of overbidding."
Operating profit
The London to Edinburgh line connects London King's Cross to stations in the north and Scotland.Under VTEC the line made an operating profit of
The Select Committee also exonerated Network Rail from any blame for the collapse of the franchise despite comments from Virgin's Sir Richard Branson that implied the franchise had been hit by delays to improvements to the rail infrastructure. The report said: "Network Rail does not bear any responsibility for the early termination of this franchise. To date, Network Rail have provided all the infrastructure upgrades that it had formally committed to when this franchise was let."
Stagecoach
Rail transport
Transport
Virgin Trains
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