Official investigators into the Government’s West Coast franchise fiasco have demanded an electronic audit of Transport Department staff e-mails in a bid to unearth evidence of a biased "Anyone But Branson" campaign.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin made the admission while giving evidence to the transport select committee.
alongside his Permanent Secretary Philip Rutnam, he said the two
independent investigations into the shambles had asked ministers and
senior officials to instigate a ‘e-mail capture’ system to
electronically scan for and root out any potentially biased internal
references to Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Trains during their bid to
retain the franchise.
The minister was forced to explain to
a select committee why his department ploughed ahead with the bidding
process for the West Coast Main Line contract despite knowing the
process was flawed.
McLoughlin said ‘basic mistakes’ had led to a ‘catastrophic failure.’ It
would be a ‘text book chapter’ for future Civil Service training.
The 13-year deal was handed to rival
firm First Group in August, but last month days after becoming Mr McLoughlin announced serious flaws had been found.