WEST COAST FIASCO: This isn’t the first time the DfT has been accused of bidding irregularities

 Powerful smell of bad eggs in the DfT

Did Branson sniff out something rotten in the DfT?

In October 2010 the Conservative Party announced its intention to privatise the country’s military search and rescue arm. The bids were evaluated by a joint MoD/DfT team. Just as with this morning’s abandonment of the West Coast train franchise bidding, then too there were ‘irregularities’ of a nature serious enough to warrant starting again.  

In February 2011, the preferred Search & Rescue bidder Soteria voluntarily came forward to tell the government of irregularities in the conduct of its bid team. In a statement at the time, the Coalition admitted that:

“The irregularities included access by one of the consortium members, CHC Helicopter, to commercially sensitive information regarding the joint MoD-DfT [Department for Transport] project team’s evaluations of industry bids and evidence that a former member of that project team had assisted the consortium in its bid preparation, contrary to explicit assurances given to the project team.”

There is probably enough evidence of systemic ‘irregularities’ in the Department for Transport now to warrant a full public enquiry. And as FirstGroup’s shares tumble 15% today so far, there is a sense here at Slogger’s Roost that this bizarre West Coast Trains bidding saga is going to get very dirty indeed. Accusations are already flying thick and fast, starting with Patrick McLoughlin, the recently appointed transport secretary,who talked of “deeply regrettable and completely unacceptable mistakes made by my department in the way it managed the process”. As Mr McLoughlin said this at 1 am, it seems unlikely anyone was around to listen, but already by 9.30am the same day, his harsh use of language has set headless hares running in all directions.

I understand that suspensions have begun in the Minister’s department (the DfT), and this in turn is evoking I-told-you-so’s from people close to events.

“There was always a suspicion on Branson’s part that the award was improper in some way,” an expert in the sector alleges, “which coming from him is somewhat amusing. He’s been on at Cameron to intervene for months now, and it looks like he got his way.”

Did Branson get to Cameron? It looks as though he didn’t physically do so, but in the sense of rattling his cage – yes, he did. Sir Richard’s support for Tory economic plans was enthusiastically trumpeted by George Osbornein the runup to the 2010 general election, but the Virgin boss quickly turned on Camerlot when it became obvious they were engaged in a brazen attempt to reward and enrich their mates.

I suspect what we are witnessing here is the use of ‘flaws’ as the ultimate euphemism for graft….on several levels – including preferred bidder favouritism, Party donations, and the siphoning off of ‘fat’ in the bid for other purposes.

Stay tuned: this is going to develop rapidly into a major scandal.



33 thoughts on “WEST COAST FIASCO: This isn’t the first time the DfT has been accused of bidding irregularities

  1. George Osbornein – not a lot of people know that’s his real name. The Chancellor who likes to say no, ermm yes, ok maybe.


  2. You have to wonder if this scandal has been simmering for some time. Hence Justine Greening shuffled off to Overseas Development before it broke.
    Possibly a case of a woman being promoted above her ability to meet gender targets in the Cabinet? Or something more sinister?
    Whatever….another nail in Cameldungs coffin I suspect.


  3. It was one of the Labour party’s original objections to the EEC that the principle of “competition” was enshrined in the original treaty. They thought co-operation was just as possible a way of organising things.
    So whether it is the railways, bits of the NHS, the freeholds of the Inland Revenue, the Post Office or even the whole administration of local authorities being farmed out, the “driver” is basically the EU.
    An official catch phrase for this process is “The Enabling State”. That is , state which “enables” commercial subcontractors for public functions in an EU-wide market. For some years now, the whole administration of East Yorkshire has been farmed out to a subsidiary of the Bertelsman group .
    Whilst the idea of “Public-Private Partnerships” was a Conservative one, it was New Labour which became the total enthusiast – at enormously increased cost to the taxpayer over time.

    One reason for this was that the capital raised privately was “off balance sheet” as far as HMG was concerned – the Enron style of accounting. So the borrowing did not count towards the 3% of GDP borrowing, permitted under the EU Stability & Growth Pact, to which the UK is signed up apart from the actual transition to the euro currency.

    Of course, what happens is not competition in Adam Smith’s sense of the “hidden hand” of the market but a lucrative stitch up between political and corporate interests – with well paid consultancies and directorships for retired ministers and civil servants who awarded large contracts. when in office. It’s called “The Revolving Door” and they come back in through it to deal with their former departments and colleagues after a year’s “gardening leave”.


  4. I will only be satisfied if I see some civil servants and a junior minister or two strung up from a lamp post or jail time ‘for the encouragement of the others’.


  5. “Stay tuned: this is going to develop rapidly into a major scandal”.

    What, ANOTHER one?! This just gets better and better (in an ironic way).



  6. Very very true, I’m sorry to say. It really comes to something when a former head of M16 is one of the people in the merger lobbying team. Its not as if middle to senior ranking civil servants don’t already have close to the best retirement packages in the country.


  7. I think the hapless Justine Greening was shuffled out of the way to allow Cameron to break his promise and get on with the expansion of Heathrow (something which was always going to happen despite Dave’s expensive green empty promises).


  8. We are not a democracy now. We are governed by the emanations from think tanks and the base desires of media magnates.

    I doubt this will reach such epic scandal proprtions. The Tories have successfully employed the tactic of blaming officials before and got away with it, such as with the Smith /Hunt affair. Civil servants can’t publicly defend themselves and so can be utilised for all manner of scapegoating activities.


  9. I don’t think the hapless Justine Greening is fit to run anything she was elevated to the cabinet as a result of political tokenism and it appears to have bitten Cameron rather badly on his very privileged backside.

    You appear to have completely misunderstood my original reply.

    I think the real issue here is likely to be good old fashioned corruption rather then the blithering incompetance that has so far been admitted but as the British state has an abudance of both either is possible.


  10. …whether we will still be a democracy…? That implies we are one. No way are we a democracy. More like we are ruled by an aristocratic oligarchy – the Etonians and their ilk, not to mention the EU parasites.


  11. Have a listen to this weeks episode of Cutting Through The Matrix by Alan Watt… here is a man who explains exactly what is going on in the world!

    We are all just cattle being farmed by the so called Military Industrial Banking Pharmaceutical Agricultural Complex for their own benefit. We are simply their livestock!


  12. I suppose it was a bad omen when his ridiculous oversized headstone turned out to have a spelling mistake on it.

    This is yet another grotesque scandal that’s going to be pumping out a putrid smell over the coming months.


  13. JW, would be interested for you to dig into what oversight there is into this. If I remember, the Coalition abolished The Audit Commission.


  14. Too true. First Group had already announced that their mobilisation was on track for takeover on the due date and I do not see Virgin extending at cost.

    This is going to cost us an arm and a leg before they’ve done.


  15. With a large number of franchises about to come up, this fiasco presents a real opportunity for a radical rethink of the whole way of running Britains railways. I would suggest that a return to The Big 4 pre 1948 (Southern, London Midland and Scottish, London North Eastern and Great Western could be a very good answer….particularly where the company running the trains was also responsible for their own bit of track and signalling.

    Anomolies like Thameslink, Gatwick Express and Cross Country could work on shared track or running powers as before. If you like Scotrail could be an extra north of Glasgow and Edinbrough. The only reason that the big 4 were really in deep financial trouble when nationalised was firstly because of a massive number of loss making branch lines…now closed, and secondly due to 6 years of complete lack of maintainance plus massive extra heavy duty traffic during the war.


  16. I don’t think that the railways could be re nationalised even if the Government had the will and the money to do it. The currant peculiar privatisation structure was created as a result of an EU Directive as the model for all member states. Who the hell thought up the crazy idea of having the track owned separately from the trains I don’t know but its clearly not working very well in the UK. Its made everyone nostalgic to return to the days of British Rail as if that was some sort of distant golden era of railway transport.


  17. During the run up to railway privatisation, we had a group of British rail shop stewards meeting in our house. There was a railway charity in Derby called St. Christopher’s, which ran an excellent old people’s home. The trustees wanted to close it and distribute the residents to private care around the country. The not unreasonable argument was that, in this way, they could better look after old railway employees from all around the country. However, the home was in our parish and our curate was very keen on keeping it open – at least for the lifetime of the existing residents, who were very well looked after indeed. So my wife became secretary of the campaign to save it.
    It was a very interesting experience to meet these railwaymen who told us of all sorts of idiocies that were being perpetrated. The root of it was the EU Directive requiring that the ownership of the track should be separated from the operation of trains – in order to allow for competition by train companies to run services over them.

    The NUR was quite hostile to our campaign. Its General Secretary was that old dinosaur, Jimmy Knapp. When he dragged his feet, the Derby shop stewards sent a message “The Boys in the Carriage & Wagon are one hundred per cent solid. If Jimmy doesn’t join the campaign, you tell him that we will tell next year’s conference about his little bit on the side, which he keeps on the union payroll”. We learned a lot about politics with this cross party campaign and very little to the credit of any of them.


  18. E Spalton: “Of course, what happens is not competition in Adam Smith’s sense of the “hidden hand” of the market but a lucrative stitch up between political and corporate interests – with well paid consultancies and directorships for retired ministers and civil servants who awarded large contracts. when in office. It’s called “The Revolving Door””

    From where I’m standing that’s almost a perfect description of Crony Capitalism.


  19. As things have turned out, it very much looks as though the ultimate reason for the EEC policies was to allow German companies to expand into the rest of the European markets. Take a look at how much of the infrastructure in the UK – water, energy, transport, logistics, telecoms – are now owned by German companies.


  20. Possibly, but maybe this is just about some loose women having a punt at his will. As they say with these kind of lotteries, you have to be in it to win it …


  21. Pingback: SEARCH & RESCUE ‘PRIVATISATION: Things the MSM didn’t tell you about Bristow Helicopters | The Slog. 3-D bollocks deconstruction

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