Snubbed train companies ‘acting like lottery losers’
Four train companies trying to sue the Government for halting the process to bid for the right to run the West’s railways have been accused of acting like “lottery losers demanding the price of their ticket back”.
Union leaders are furious that transport firms Stagecoach, Arriva, National Express and the current franchise holders First are taking the Government to court and are demanding as much as £40 million in costs.
Earlier this year, the Government called a halt to the process where train companies bid for the franchise to run services out of Paddington to the West Country and South Wales, following the debacle surrounding the aborted process for the West Coast mainline, which runs from London to the North West.
Ministers said they wanted to re-evaluate the process for the Great Western line – which serves London to Swindon, Bath, Bristol, south Wiltshire and Somerset – as a result.
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The four companies that had submitted bids for the Great Western franchise claim they have spent around £10 million submitting their cases, which involved hiring experts, lawyers and compiling their submissions.
Their case will be heard at the end of the month, giving a couple of weeks for the Government and the train companies to thrash out a deal.
The decision by the firms to sue has not impressed rail union leader Bob Crow, who said: “These rail companies are acting like a lottery loser demanding the price of their ticket back. They are quite happy with the casino franchising process until they draw a losing hand.
“This latest nonsense will end up costing the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds and yet again exposes the insanity of rail privatisation. Only full renationalisation of our railways can end this circus.”
The rail companies appear to be facing an uphill battle in getting their costs back – the original invitations to tender included the line: “Each bidder shall be responsible for all costs, expenses and liabilities incurred by it in connection with the Great Western franchise letting process, whether or not its bid and/or associated negotiations are ultimately successful or the process is subsequently varied in any way or terminated.”
The Great Western main line is about to undergo the biggest renovation in 100 years, with electrification starting at London and arriving in Bristol by the end of the decade. But the line is also the most overcrowded in Britain and has suffered a series of crippling delays caused by signalling problems, as well as problems caused by severe weather and flooding in Devon and north of Bristol.