A statement from The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts:
The Public Accounts Committee has a continuing interest in ensuring value for money to the taxpayer in the letting of rail franchises. The West Coast Mainline deal is the first of the longer franchises being let by the Department, and we will want to see that the Department has learnt the lessons from its past failures to secure value for money.
We have expressed concerns before about the Department’s capability in predicting accurate passenger numbers and reflecting the impact of economic conditions on train operator’s revenue. Questions over their capability have now been raised again and whilst we welcome healthy competition it is essential that the Department has exercised proper due diligence in the letting of this franchise.
In the short-term the Public Accounts Committee can look at the processes adopted by the Department to respond to our previous recommendations, such as strengthening its testing of bidders’ assumptions. In the long term we can make a more rigorous assessment of whether the franchise is delivering a good deal for the public.