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Challenges to major rail franchise procurements rejected

Related Member(s):
Rhodri Thompson QC
Related Practice Area(s):
Competition and Regulation, EU Law

Rhodri Thompson QC led an exceptionally large legal team in successfully defending three related challenges to major rail procurement exercises conducted by the Department of Transport in relation to the West Coast, East Midlands and South Eastern rail franchises, in one of the largest and most complex set of procurement cases ever brought in the UK.  On 9 April 2019, the Department had informed Stagecoach and Arriva, and a joint venture between Stagecoach, SNCF and Virgin, that their bids had been rejected on the basis that they did not comply with the pensions requirements of the Department for rail employees.  Eight cases were then brought, four judicial reviews and four claims for damages based on EU law, leading to a very complex and extensive disclosure exercise and an expedited trial of the pensions issues.  The case also involved an expedited application by the Defendant for summary judgment and an appeal to the Court of Appeal in November 2019.

The case involving Arriva was settled in January 2020, shortly before the trial, but on 18 June 2020, Stuart-Smith J ruled in favour of the Department on all of the pension issues, finding that it had been a commercial decision by Stagecoach and its partners to reject the Department’s pension requirements and that the Secretary of State had been legally entitled to disqualify them for non-compliance.

The Department was represented by the Government Legal Division together with Addleshaw Goddard, DLA and Eversheds Sutherland.