LONDON Oct 5 Design and engineering firm WS
Atkins could be next in the firing line for its part in
a flawed $9 billion dollar rail deal torn up by Britain's
government this week, sending its shares down 4 percent.
British newspaper The Times reported on Friday that Atkins'
advisory role into the collapsed West Coast Main Line deal would
be part of an independent investigation. The newspaper said it
understood the firm had played a key role in evaluating the bids
and overseeing revenue forecasts for the Department for
On Wednesday, the Department for Transport (DfT) said that
"completely unacceptable" flaws had been uncovered in its
handling of bids to run the line, a jewel in the crown of the
rail network linking London and Scotland.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that his
department's mistakes would cost the taxpayer at least 40
million pounds ($65 million), a relatively small but politically
awkward sum at a time of recession and squeezed household
Atkins confirmed to Reuters it had provided "technical
support" for the contract but would not comment any further on
FirstGroup in August won the 13-year deal for the
London-to-Scotland line, only for Virgin Trains, a joint venture
between high-profile billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Group
and Stagecoach, to challenge the decision and eventually
prompt an embarrassing government u-turn.
Shares in Atkins, which have risen 38 percent on a year ago,
were down 3.9 percent to 700 pence at 1007 GMT.
"Should any review find Atkins to have been at fault during
this tender process, then clearly it could have a negative
reputational impact for the group, given this represents a high
profile tender," analysts at Espirito Santo said.
The DfT was not able to give an immediate response to The