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trains, calculations and procurement flaws

3 October 2012

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) decision to abandon awarding the West Coast Main Line rail franchise to FirstGroup highlights the difficulties of running major procurements and in particular evaluating bids.

The financial modelling used to evaluate the financial promises made by bidders here would have been extremely complex. However, even in simpler procurements, contracting authorities should take time to ensure the evaluation scheme they use actually works before being sent to the market.

Running a test set of information through marking schemes will often throw out any difficulties before you get the real information from bidders. Checking and effectively moderating the evaluation carried out must be done before releasing the decisions to bidders. Building in time for effective moderation will be time well spent in the long run.

This has proved an expensive mistake for the DfT which other contracting authorities should learn from. Procurement challenges are not just time consuming and costly but if successful can also bring considerable political discomfort to those involved.

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