Maria Eagle MP, Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary, responding to the publication of the final report of the Laidlaw Inquiry into the InterCity West Coast Competition, said:
"The Laidlaw Inquiry has delivered a damning verdict on the Government’s shambolic and incompetent handling of rail franchising since the election. It was Ministers who decided to experiment with a risky new franchising policy on the most complex of contracts, carry out a bizarre reorganisation that left no civil servant with responsibility for rail, cut a third of the Department’s staff and axe external financial scrutiny of contracts. The Transport Secretary’s promise to reverse many of these changes is a clear admission that it was these Ministerial decisions that led to the collapse of the Government’s rail franchising programme. By continuing to insist that the blame rests with officials, even as those civil servants who had been suspended are being reinstated, demonstrates the Government’s desperation to duck their own responsibility for this fiasco.
“Commuters facing New Year fare rises of up to six per cent above inflation will be furious that millions of pounds of tax-payers money that could have been used to reduce the pressure on household budgets has instead gone down the drain as a result of Ministerial incompetence.
“Before the election, the Prime Minister was clear that Ministers must take responsibility for serious or systematic performance failures in their Departments and not be allowed to shuffle off responsibility. It’s time the Prime Minister listened to his own words and insisted that Ministers take responsibility for this franchise fiasco, instead of hiding behind their officials.”