A LIVERPOOL MP has demanded politicians stop dodging the blame after a damning report laid bare the bungling behind the collapse of the West Coast Main Line franchise.
Taxpayers have lost at least £50m as a result of the collapse of the £5bn franchise deal to run trains between Liverpool and London.
Garston and Halewood MP Maria Eagle, the shadow transport secretary, said the Prime Minister must not pass the buck.
She said: "It is time David Cameron took responsibility for the rail franchising fiasco, instead of allowing ministers to hide behind civil servants.
"The Government must accept the finding of the Public Accounts Committee that it was the short-sighted decision by ministers to axe external audits of multi-billion pound contracts which ended up with at least £50m of taxpayers’ money going down the drain.
"It is a disgrace that every politician responsible for the bungled franchise deal has either remained in the cabinet or been promoted to it."
Labour committee chair Margaret Hodge was no less scathing in her analysis of one of the most embarrassing incidents to hit the coalition.
Errors in the franchise process were so serious that iLast October, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin scrapped the bidding process, in which Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains lost out to FirstGroup in the battle for the 13-year West Coast contract. Virgin will continue to run the service until November next year, when new bidding process starts.
Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, which wrote the report, said: "The Department for Transport’s complete lack of common sense in the way it ran the West Coast franchise competition has landed the taxpayer with a bill of £50m at the very least.
"If you factor in the cost of delays to investment on the line and the potential knock-on effect on other franchise competitions, then the final cost to the taxpayer will be very much larger."Senior management did not have proper oversight of the project. Cuts in staffing and in consultancy budgets contributed to a lack of key skills.