Branson’s Pickle

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Branson’s Pickle

At the time of going to press it is reported that Virgin Trains have asked for a Judicial Review of the decision to award the InterCity West Coast Franchise to a competitor. The Department of Transport’s procurement actions will be scrutinised and no doubt their Invitation to Tender dated 20 January 2012 will be a factor in the consideration. The following observations are not intended to be critical nor anticipatory of the outcome.

With KPI’s in mind it is interesting to read the objectives of the Franchise:

  • To exploit the full potential of the route and maximise capacity
  • To improve overall passenger satisfaction
  • To improve accessibility to services and situations
  • To improve the environmental performance of the franchise
  • To manage effectively any changes during the franchise
  • To achieve sustainable value for money

As a regular customer of Virgin Trains we will be very interested in how the second of these bullet points will be evaluated, reported and continually improved. Will someone deal with:

  • Trains not running?
  • No catering due to shortage of staff?
  • Lack of information when there are serious delays?
  • Rude Train Guards unversed in customer relations?
  • The desperately slow response time to customer complaints?

The tender was limited to 1500 pages for the main text of the bid including the Executive Summary and proposed means of delivery of the Base Service Specification including all annexes/appendices.

At 2.10 of the ITT it is stated that the Department welcomed proposals that enable the delivery of a more efficient service, representing better value for money for passengers and taxpayers. There is RISK stamped all over this and no doubt a detailed risk evaluation was considered as part of the Tender evaluation.

Judicial Review is a standard part of British common law. It is the power of the courts to review laws, treaties, policies or executive orders relevant to cases before the court and nullify those that are found to be unconstitutional. We may note that in Hossacks v The Legal Services Commission [2010] EWCH 1457 the High Court dismissed an application for judicial review. This decision highlights that the courts are reluctant to interfere with a contracting authorities’ contract award decision where it can be demonstrated that the decision was taken in an objective and transparent manner.

We will wait for the outcome of the Judicial Review with baited breath!