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U.K. Starts Disciplinary Action Against West Coast Bid Officials

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Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Disciplinary action has begun against U.K. government officials involved in the flawed evaluation of bids for the West Coast rail franchise, the House of Commons Transport Committee was told today.

The actions, which follow an internal review, concern an unspecified number of civil servants, Philip Rutnam, permanent secretary to the Department for Transport, said at the latest hearing into the West Coast bid process, which saw FirstGroup Plc stripped of a contract after complaints from Virgin Trains.

DfT officials “knew things were awry” in the assessment of bids but failed to properly escalate their concerns, Rutnam said, adding that lapses may have been ignored because of a culture of “completion at any cost” for franchise awards.

The conclusions of a probe into the wider rail franchising system will be made known “shortly,” Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin told the committee.

The cost of the West Coast failure in terms of refunds to bidders has increased to about 45 million pounds ($72 million), he said.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Wall in London at rwall6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Jasper at cjasper@bloomberg.net