Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, has refused to say sorry publicly to Sir Richard Branson for the £40m West Coast Mainline "fiasco" which has seen the government perform yet another embarrassing U-turn.
Speaking to the BBC following the dramatic decision to scrap a deal which would have seen Branson's train company lose its West Coast franchise, McLoughlin said: "I'm not going to apologise for the terrible mistake that has been made by the Department."
Adding: "I want to make sure what lessons need to be learnt from what went wrong with this have not been repeated in those particular franchises.
"I want to make it absolutely clear that neither FirstGroup nor Virgin did anything wrong. The fault of this lies wholly and squarely with the Department for Transport.
"Both of those two companies acted properly on the advice that they were getting from the Department."
But he did admit he’d spoken to the parties involved, including Branson and said what had been found was "deeply regrettable".
Future Government rail plans were thrown completely off track today after ministers scrapped a deal which would have seen Sir Richard Branson's train company lose its West Coast franchise.
Sir Richard had mounted a legal challenge to the decision by the Department for Transport (DfT) to award a new 13-year franchise for the West Coast not to Virgin Rail but to rival transport company FirstGroup.
FirstGroup's shares were 15% down in early trading on Wednesday morning.
Labour leader Ed Miliband described the West Coast Main Line decision as a "fiasco" which brought the Government's competence into question.
Mr Miliband told BBC Radio 5 Live: "When you look at the latest fiasco with the West Coast Main Line - another Government screw-up, another Government mistake, another case of them blaming someone else, apparently they are saying it is the fault of their civil servants - I think competence is an issue."
Only yesterday he used his conference speech to bash the government over it’s series of U-turns which has created the theme of a disorganised leadership.
Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle MP also said the West Coast franchise process had been a "fiasco" which had "yet again exposed the shambolic incompetence of this Tory-led Government".
Meanwhile, Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: "The whole sorry and expensive shambles of rail privatisation has been dragged into the spotlight this morning and instead of rerunning this expensive circus, the West Coast route should be renationalised on a permanent basis."
Sir Richard Branson said: "We also appreciate the DfT publicly acknowledging these errors, and are hopeful they will now accept that Virgin Trains should carry on running the West Coast line and ensure that passengers continue receiving our team's award-winning service."
Reaction On Twitter To The West Coast Shambles