Shockwaves over West Coast Main Line decision, now HS2 opponents demand rethink

Cheryl Gillan
Cheryl Gillan

HS2 should now be rethought following the fallout from the West Coast Main Line debacle say campaigners.

Bucks-based MP Cheryl Gillan said the high speed plans should be looked at again ‘in the light of significant technical flaws in WCML franchise competition’ – a view shared by the 51m group of 18 councils fighting the plans and the chairman of Aylesbury Conservative Association.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said it was ‘deeply regrettable’ that mistakes had been made by staff within the Department for Transport, as the decision to award the West Coast Main Line rail franchise to FirstGroup was scrapped.

Several staff have been suspended because of the errors, which could cost £40 million to reimburse companies for the cost of their bids.

It is likely to have far-reaching implications, because about 15 rail franchises are due to be decided by 2015 and these could now be thrown into doubt.

Shortly after the news about the West Coast Mail Line franchise broke, the Chesham and Amersham MP wrote on Twitter: “Am asking DfT for immediate review of HS2 business case in the light of significant technical flaws in WCML franchise competition.”

That view was echoed by the chairman of Aylesbury Conservative Association Steve Bowles, who wrote: “Agree. If DfT got projections on WCML wrong for 15 year foresight how can we trust HS2 figures for 25 years?”

Martin Tett, leader of Bucks County Council and chairman of the 51m group, said: ““We have always argued that the consultation and decision making process on HS2 was deeply flawed.

“The Government has now admitted that there are fundamental problems within the Department for Transport in the way it evaluates projects and makes decisions on major projects.

“We want to know if the same people who have been suspended were involved in the decisions on HS2?

“Supporters of HS2 have often criticised us for our legal action against HS2. What this revelation on the West Coast Mainline franchise shows is that we have been absolutely right to do so.

“These current admissions of incompetence would not have come to light without Richard Branson’s legal challenge. We expect similar revelations from our challenge on HS2.”