By Matthew Barrett
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Yesterday, Justine Greening said she would "push on" with awarding the West Coast rail franchise to FirstGroup, rather than Virgin, despite Sir Richard Branson’s calls for an inquiry into the decision.
"Virgin, Stagecoach and Sir Richard Branson have lost the West Coast Rail franchise bid after a very rigorous, professional, lengthy and carefully-evaluated process conducted by the Department for Transport and its expert advisers – as required for such an important contract. The bid selected has been assessed as the best for the taxpayer and rail user.
May I call upon Sir Richard to accept this outcome and move on to the many other opportunities that exist for him and his organisation. His refusal to accept the decision – despite not raising any objection to the process until he had lost – smacks of sour grapes. We cannot operate major Government procurement decisions on the basis of a publicity campaign, or move the goalposts after a decision has been properly reached.
Any delays to the start of the new franchise will delay the delivery of benefits promised and bring great uncertainty and concern for all concerned – not least the employees who are all due to transfer to the new franchisee.
Sir Richard must realise that, although he is a very successful businessman, he is not entitled to automatically receive government contracts or be the judge of which bid is the best. He should show a little humility and accept the outcome of this process with good grace."
Not all Conservative MPs feel the same way as Mr Kawczynski. On Monday, our front-page newslinks included a statement from the Member of Parliament for Morecambe and Lunesdale, David Morris:
"Since the Government announced that Virgin was not the successful bidder for the Inter City West Coast Mainline, I have received a huge number of correspondences from constituents. The general feeling is that my constituents are happy with the service Virgin Trains provides and it is for me as their MP to reflect that view which is why I have written to the Government to express that opinion."