Virgin takes court action over West Coast mainline
Virgin made the move just hours after transport secretary Justine Greening said that the government would sign the contract with First Group for the rail franchise later this week, despite protests from Sir Richard Branson’s group and calls from the Labour party to review the decision.
“We have tried for three weeks to get clarity over the Department for Transport's decision and to have a number of key questions answered. On each occasion we have been refused information,” said Virgin in a statement.
“We are left with no choice but to commence court proceedings as we believe the procurement process has ignored the substantial risks to taxpayers and customers of delivering FirstGroup's bid over the course of the franchise."
More than 160,000 people have signed an online petition asking for the government to reconsider the decision on the West Coast mainline.
Branson added: “We had hoped that parliament or an external review would be able to scrutinise this badly flawed process before the franchise was signed.
“However that opportunity would be denied if the DFT follows through with its determination to rush through the process before parliament returns next week.”
First Group said in a statement that it had "every confidence" in the DFT’s franchise process which it described as "rigorous, detailed and fair and in which bids are thoroughly tested".
"There has been no complaint about the process, which was carefully described in advance, until Virgin Rail Group had lost commercially," added the company.
"Our focus is to ensure a smooth transition with continuity for staff and passengers alike. We want to get on with delivering the many benefits and improvements we are offering without delay or disruption. We will continue to prepare for a successful start up of the new franchise on December 9, 2012."