STAGECOACH AND its partner bidders have launched legal action against the Department for Transport in connection with the procurement of the West Coast Partnership franchise.

The claim has been brought by the West Coast Trains Partnership Ltd bidding consortium, in which Stagecoach has a 50% share alongside SNCF (30%) and Virgin (20%). Virgin and Stagecoach currently operate the West Coast franchise through the Virgin Rail Group joint venture, and the consortium was one of three shortlisted bidders for the new deal, which is planned to include the first phase of operation of HS2 services when Phase One of the line opens in 2026.

Stagecoach says a claim has been issued at the High Court in London under Part 7 of the Civil Procedure Rules together with a judicial review claim. The claim alleges that the Department for Transport breached its statutory duties under the relevant provisions of Regulation 1370/2007 and the relevant principles of EU and English law, in connection with the procurement of the ongoing competition for the franchise.

The legal action follows a similar claim made after DfT awarded the East Midlands franchise to Abellio, at the same time announcing Stagecoach had been disqualified from its bids for that competition, the West Coast Partnership and the South Eastern franchise.

Stagecoach says the claims vary in certain respects but common to both is the company’s refusal to accept the pension risks ‘the DfT requires operators to bear in relation to the new franchises’.

The other losing bidder in the East Midlands competition, Arriva, has also sought clarification regarding the competition after it was also reportedly disqualified for non-compliance regarding pension risk.

DfT indicated in the spring that it intended to award the West Coast Partnership franchise in June, although as we closed for press sources were indicating that the WCP franchise competition might be cancelled. The other two bidders in the competition are a venture of FirstGroup and Trenitalia and a consortium led by MTR and Guangshen Railway supported by various sub-contractors.