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Ministers accused over rail deal fiasco

Ministers have been accused by Labour of failing to take responsibility for the £45 million West Coast Main Line fiasco.

Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle said it was a "disgrace" the politicians responsible for the bungled franchise deal had either remained in the Cabinet or been promoted to it.

Answering questions in the Commons, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said reports into the West Cost deal had concluded ministers were not made aware of the problems.

The West Coast bidding process, which had originally seen transport company FirstGroup chosen to take over from Virgin Trains for a new 13-year franchise, was abandoned by Mr McLoughlin last autumn.

This followed mistakes in the bidding process by civil servants, which also involved ministers being given incorrect information by the Department for Transport (DfT) on which to make a decision.

Mr McLoughlin said bidders would be remunerated in full and told MPs: "I expect this figure to be in the region of £45 million."

He said the report by Sam Laidlaw into the process showed "ministers were not made aware".

But Ms Eagle said: "It was ministers who decided to carry out a botched reorganisation of the DfT that left no one in charge of rail, cut a third of the department's staff and axed external procurement audits."

Mr McLoughlin said that "had ministers been warned, different actions could have been taken".

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Local government

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