West Coast Mainline: Laidlaw report

The final report into the failed West Coast Mainline franchise deal was published today. Peter Riddell, Director of the Institute for Government, said:

“This is the story of a department trying out an innovative new approach to the rail franchise process while at the same time facing a huge re-organisation and major cutbacks.

“There have been failings at all levels, which the Permanent Secretary and Transport Secretary have accepted, but the episode begs the question whether a permanent secretary would speak up if their department was being stretched beyond its limits. And, whilst there are plenty of actions for the ‘department’ in this report, responsibility for those actions is unclear.

“We have raised the issue of a ‘fragile’ Whitehall getting through a challenging era of cuts. This is possibly an early glimpse of what happens when parts get stretched too far doing too many things at the same time. What matters now is that the Civil Service and ministers find a way forward and learn these harsh lessons quickly”.