MSP hits out at ‘shambolic’ handling of rail franchise

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TRANSPORT minister Keith Brown has hit out at the “shambolic” handling of the West Coast rail franchise and for the confusion he says it has sparked among passengers.

The West Coast franchise covers key routes linking Edinburgh with London.

The UK Department for Transport cancelled the award to Aberdeen-based FirstGroup, which was due to take over the cross-border route from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Rail.

The Scottish Government was given no notice of the decision, which is set to cost taxpayers about £40 million.

The SNP minister said: “The department’s handling of the procurement process has been incompetent and shambolic. It has caused a great deal of confusion and speculation about arrangements for West Coast services after the franchise handover date of December 9.

“Neither Scottish ministers nor officials were made aware of yesterday’s decision in advance of the announcement.”