Chris Grayling’s embattled transport ministry faces a second legal challenge over the way the East Midlands rail franchise was awarded, from Arriva Rail, owned by Germany’s state-backed Deutsche Bahn. The claim, filed at the high court last week, will pit the UK and German governments against each other and could lead to the transport secretary
Chris Grayling’s embattled transport ministry faces a second legal challenge over the way the East Midlands rail franchise was awarded, from Arriva Rail, owned by Germany’s state-backed Deutsche Bahn.
The claim, filed at the high court last week, will pit the UK and German governments against each other and could lead to the transport secretary being called to court to give evidence.
Arriva said it had taken legal action against the DfT over the award of the East Midlands network to the Dutch state-owned firm Abellio last week, alongside a similar action launched by Stagecoach at the high court.
Stagecoach has alleged that the DfT breached its statutory duties over East Midlands, where it was the operator before the contract was handed to Abellio.
In early May, the government barred Stagecoach from the East Midlands, South Eastern and West Coast franchises after the company lodged bids that breached rules on underwriting pensions for rail staff. This means Stagecoach, once one of the biggest train operators, will disappear from Britain’s railways.
Arriva’s bid for the East Midlands line was also disqualified by the DfT for being “non-compliant”.
After all other operators were disqualified, Abellio was the only bidder left for East Midlands. It signed a deal for the eight-year franchise, starting in August, last Thursday amid allegations of a flawed process. Stagecoach was also angered that information on its bid was leaked to Abellio, which runs five other UK rail franchises, before the Dutch company won the contract.
An Arriva spokesperson said: “We can confirm that we are seeking to obtain more information relating to how the bids for the East Midlands franchise were assessed.”
A DfT spokesperson said: “We do not comment on legal proceedings. However, we have total confidence in our franchise competition process and will robustly defend decisions that were taken fairly following a thorough and impartial evaluation process.”
Stagecoach’s chief executive, Martin Griffiths, said on Wednesday it filed a legal action to examine the DfT’s “opaque decision-making”. The company is also considering legal action over the West Coast and South Eastern lines.
The DfT’s decision to bar Stagecoach from the three franchises means that Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains, Stagecoach’s joint venture partner, could also disappear from Britain’s railways by the end of the year after more than two decades, Branson has warned.