Rail row civil servant sues DfT

Virgin RailOne of the civil servants suspended following the West Coast rail franchise fiasco is to take legal action against the Department for Transport (DfT).

Kate Mingay, the department's commercial and technical services director, was one of three DfT officials suspended after the Government pulled the plug on the West Coast bidding process earlier this autumn.

A spokesman for Mrs Mingay said: "We can confirm that Mrs Mingay has issued proceedings against the DfT. We have nothing further to add at this stage." It is believed that a court hearing will take place on Thursday.

The news of the proceedings comes as the DfT prepares to receive an independent review report into West Coast. Headed by senior business figure Sam Laidlaw, the review will make grim reading for the DfT.

Last summer the DfT decided to award a new 13-year West Coast franchise not to Sir Richard Branson's rail company Virgin Trains but to rival company FirstGroup.

Sir Richard branded the bidding process "insane" and launched a legal challenge. It was in preparing a defence against the court proceedings that what Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin described as "significant technical flaws" in the franchise process were discovered.

Mr McLoughlin, who had not been in charge when the FirstGroup decision was made, called off the bidding process and announced Mr Laidlaw's inquiry and a second, independent, inquiry into the whole franchise bidding system.

Mr Laidlaw has already published a damning initial-findings report, which said that "an accumulation of significant errors...resulted in a flawed process".

This initial report said that the DfT decided to carry on with the bidding even though it was aware of a lack of transparency in the subordinated loan facility (SLF) process - the amount the successful bidder would have had to forfeit if unable to fulfil the contract.

Mr Laidlaw's initial report said the DfT also went ahead accepting the risk of a legal challenge to the process. The report said evidence strongly suggested that the DfT's franchise process for West Coast "was developed late, in a hurry and without proper planning and preparation". Mr Laidlaw, who is a non-executive director of the DfT, is due to give evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee next week.
Read Full Story