Civil servant to sue DfT over West Coast fiasco

ONE OF the civil servants who was suspended after the West Coast franchise competition was cancelled has started High Court action against the Department for Transport, claiming that her career has been damaged by its actions.

Solicitors acting for Kate Mingay told Railnews she has launched proceedings, although they could not confirm reports that the first hearing will be on Thursday this week.

Ms Mingay issued a statement in early October in which she had said that "my role has been inaccurately portrayed, mainly due to statements and other comment made by the Department for Transport itself. I would like to make it clear that I did not have lead responsibility for this project. Neither I nor any member of my team had any responsibility for the economic modelling for this project or for any Department for Transport project. Nor did I have any responsibility for the financial modelling".

Ms Mingay is one of three officials who were suspended by DfT permanent secretary Philip Rutnam on 3 October, only hours after transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin admitted that his department's assessment of the four West Coast bids had included 'serious technical flaws'.

Runner-up Virgin Trains had mounted a legal challenge to the award of the franchise to FirstGroup at the end of August, preventing the completion of the deal with FirstGroup.

Although Virgin withdrew after the DfT had cancelled the award and announced three inquiries into what had gone wrong, Ms Mingay's legal action may affect the Department's timetable for publishing one of the reports, which is the result of an inquiry into how the West Coast assessment had gone awry.

This inquiry, by Centrica chief executive Sam Laidlaw, is due to produce its final report at the end of this week.

The DfT said it did not comment on staff matters.

Meanwhile the identity of the Intercity West Coast operator from 9 December remains unconfirmed, although the DfT has been discussing the terms of an emergency contract with Virgin Trains since 15 October.

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