Public Accounts Committee condemns DfT

17 December 2014

Mick Whelan has spoken out after the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee criticised the Department for Transport for its procurement policies. Margaret Hodge, chair, said today: 'The Department for Transport’s decision to buy the new trains for Intercity Express and Thameslink itself has left the taxpayer bearing all the risk.'

Mick Whelan, ASLEF's general secretary, said: ‘From the report it is quite clear that the lessons that led to the West Coast debacle, of not having sufficient trained staff at the DfT, combined with, as highlighted in the report,a failure to put any long-term strategy for the rail industry in place, hasonce more led to additional burdens, and risk, for the British taxpayer.

‘We apparently, while moving away from the cartel system, have recognised that the privatised franchise system cannot or will not afford to invest in rolling stock. Which has led to this knee-jerk reaction, with multi-million pounds at risk, in the event of future changes to the railway system or the franchise map. ASLEF deplores such a strategy for procurement that does not add value for passengers, employees,apprentices or the future of the railway in this country.’

The PAC went on to say: 'The DfT has no previous experience of running a procurement of this kind, let alone two with a combined value of £10.5 billion. Yet it has chosen to break with its previous approach of leaving it to rolling stock companies and train operators to buy trains,transferring risk away from the rail industry back to government. This means that if passenger forecasts are wrong and fewer new trains are needed in future taxpayers will have to pick up the bill. The only way the DfT can limit this risk is by requiring train operating companies to use these new trains to run their services regardless of whether they best fit the services they would like to offer.

'We are concerned that the DfT did not appear to have looked at whether there were better ways of achieving its objectives. For example, it could have addressed the lack of incentives that mean train operating companies do not have an interest in buying trains which minimise maintenance costs to Network Rail.'

 

 

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